Quest: A Home of Our Own

We want to buy a house, and we need your help to do it.
In the early hours of April 13, 2019, we lost the home we were renting to a fire caused by faulty electrical wiring. There are no words to describe how gut-wrenching it was to lose everything in the space of a few hours. No words can fully describe the horror of screaming your autistic child’s name because you thought she was right behind you but she went back to try and rescue her beloved cats, which were already lost to the smoke and toxic fumes when the fire first started burning through the walls. Nothing prepares you for the fear of losing your unborn child to the stress of such a trauma. Even three years later, I still grieve what we lost and panic if I smell anything that reminds me of that horrible night.
We took refuge in a home rented out by FirstKey Homes, and we thought we were safe. In February of 2020, they sold the house to Prager Property Management, and we were scared that we would be homeless again. Fortunately, Prager liked having paying tenants, and we stayed and were comfortable. We still knew our property managers by name, and even though it was sometimes difficult to get Prager to take responsibility for a maintenance issue, we could easily reach them by phone or email, and there was no ambiguity. Unfortunately, Prager chose to sell the house in February 2022 to VineBrook Homes. VineBrook told us that nothing would change, but we were not introduced to our property management team, we were not given a copy of the lease they assumed from Prager, and they did not bill us as Prager had for the sewer bill we could not access.
Worse, when our bath fixture somehow started to carry an electrical current strong enough to shock us, VineBrook tried to get out of fixing it. Their maintenance team was able to detect the current with a voltmeter, but they tried to deny finding a problem when I continued to ask when an electrician would be out to fix the problem, because we were all scared to bathe or shower, I was scared to bathe my toddler, and I was scared that it would cause me to have a heart attack. It was only after I told them that I would have the city building inspector check the fixtures for an electrical current that they sent an electrician. The electrician confirmed that there was a current coming through the fixture, isolated the circuit, and replaced the faulty wiring as soon as he was able to do so.
Our lease is up on May 27, and unlike both Prager and FirstKey, VineBrook has given no indication whatsoever that they want to renew our lease. Every other place we have rented from has either asked us to renew the lease at least a month in advance of the end date or has informed us if they have chosen not to extend the lease. VineBrook also has a single contact number, and over the time that they have owned this house, I have never spoken to a property manager, even though I have been promised a callback from one numerous times. We’re losing our home again, and I’m anxious and terrified.
Due to our previous experiences with the property management companies that have bought out businesses that actually attempted to maintain relationships and trust with tenants, we really want to buy our own home instead of constantly subjecting ourselves and our children to the uncertainty and instability of renting from another property management company. To that end, we want to buy a house outright so that we can provide a safe, stable, permanent home for ourselves and our children.
When I was a child, I believed that if I worked hard and played by the rules, I could have the safety of a home of my own for myself and my family. My husband worked hard and went from being a homeless veteran to a provisional licensed professional counselor who provides the tools to help other people manage their illnesses and live better lives. My oldest daughter has autism and is the person who woke up, saw the fire, and got my husband to help. Without her quick thinking and courage, none of us would have survived. As for me, I worked hard all of my life until I became permanently disabled. Now I take care of our home and family as best as possible. I also write and create art and do a bit of affiliate marketing. My youngest daughter hadn’t been born when the fire happened, but I was scared that I would lose her due to the stress of the fire and the trauma of being homeless and having nothing until the community intervened and helped us get into the home we have now...the home that we're losing through no fault of our own.
While I understand that it is a big, bold ask, we’re facing being homeless again or having to live in a place where we’ll constantly be afraid of experiencing another devastating house fire. 
Once again, I am asking you, my people, my community, please help us get a home. Will you donate today?


Rebecca Oaks Mason
Saint Ann, MO

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