ELDERLY AND DRIFTING TOWARDS HOMELESS

Hello – Hugh Prestwood and Judy Ahrens here. A few decades ago I was a somewhat accomplished Nashville songwriter, and my wife Judy was a somewhat accomplished photojournalist, but much has changed, and recently we have been hit with some very bad luck.

Here’s our rather dire predicament: we are being forced to vacate the Long Island home we have rented for ten years, and move – likely to much more affordable Texas (where we have family). Unfortunately, for several years we've been struggling financially, and one of the worst elements of barely making ends meet is that we have no cash reserve for emergencies -- and we are in one now. Simply put, unless we get some help we are three months away from having no place to live, i.e. becoming homeless.

So, with your help we are hoping to raise $25,000, to be used for packing, furniture storage, and moving. Let me explain in more detail.

OUR CURRENT SITUATION

We are both retired and both elderly (me being 79 and Judy being 68) living almost entirely on our Social Security benefits, two-thirds of which is taken covering our home rent. Although I was a successful songwriter in the late 1970s through the mid-1990s, profound changes in the recording industry’s business model – particularly the digitalization of recorded music and the collapse of CD sales -- essentially ended my royalty income around 2005.

Based on the old business model I had assumed those royalties would continue and provide a reasonable retirement income, but it was not to be. So we slowly began sinking into credit card debt and by 2012 we were forced to sell our home we’d bought in 1984, and began renting another home we have been in ever since. I was also eventually forced to sell my song copyrights.

The proceeds on the home and copyright sales kept us afloat for several years but were gone by 2018, and since then we have been – as the saying goes – living on a shoestring. We also have been supplementing our income by occasionally selling some of our belongings on EBay. We’re somewhat dependent on NY State aid to pay for our heating oil, and also partake of its version of “Meals On Wheels” for much of our food.

Our current rent is $2,300/month, which out here on the east end of Long Island is now far below the going rate for home rentals. As mentioned above, we were barely managing, but then in 2021 we were hit with two major setbacks – one financial and one health related.

THE TWO SETBACKS

The financial setback – and the reason for this request for help – is that our landlady recently decided she wanted to switch to a “seasonal rental” plan and – despite our pleas -- has told us to vacate by the end of March. Where we live (Long Island’s North Fork) has become extremely “in” real estate wise – slowly evolving into a version of the legendary Hamptons – and home and rental prices have exploded. This change has put our landlady in the position of being able to make a great deal more money renting the home for the summer to wealthy vacationing Manhattanites than by renting to us year round. Worse, this real estate boom has also made it essentially impossible for us to find another affordable rental home in the area. Simply put, as heartbreaking as it is, we seem to have no choice but to move out of this lovely area that we have called our home for nearly forty years.

The second setback is health related. Last April I was filling a backyard bird feeder when the ladder I was on collapsed, and in the fall I crushed a vertebra in my spine, which then had to be removed and – long story short – I now have two titanium rods in my back and am pretty much disabled (even walking a few feet is very painful). This has made it virtually impossible for me to do all the box-lifting and packing required to move.

As mentioned, our huge hurdle is that we have zero money to cover the significant expenses of packing, storing, and cross-country moving, which – based on estimates – will be at least $20,000 – plus incidentals. Adding to this sorry state of affairs is that we have only one working car, a 2005 Jeep Liberty.

The homeowner is demanding that we vacate by March 31st, so we don’t have much time to accomplish this overwhelming task. Anything you can contribute will be dearly appreciated.


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