Unsafe home finds Bath couple in need of help
Alan and Yvonne Orchard say they don’t have any options.
The city has informed them they must leave their home of 19 years at 45 Windjammer Way.
The home has a hole in the roof. The Orchards insist they’re safe, and that the hole — caused by a storm that knocked the chimney down — has been there for several years.
City officials disagree and issued the couple an eviction notice Dec. 1. That date has come and gone, and the City Council will take up the matter again during its meeting on Wednesday night.
The Orchards are poor, and desperate.
“We have no place to go,” they said Monday.
The couple sleeps upstairs, in the room next to the one with the hole, which has a tarp over it. A space heater located in the living room vents warm air up through a hole in the ceiling.
Alan Orchard, 81, has diabetes and doesn’t have the money to see a doctor for his failing eyesight.
They have an artificial Christmas tree upstairs, but don’t bring it down because they can’t afford to put anything underneath it.
Yvonne Orchard, 55, works at a local supermarket. Her hours have been cut recently to fewer than 20 a week.
They do have each other.
“I go where he goes,” said Alan Orchard’s wife of 33 years.
The couple has applied for elderly disabled housing, which can mean a wait of six to 12 months.
With winter at hand, homelessness for an 81-year-old man with diabetes and his wife is not an option.
Joanne Marco, executive director of Bath Housing Authority, indicated there is hope for the Orchards. The Salvation Army might be able to fill the void, or perhaps General Assistance aid, she said.
“All of us who can offer assistance will work on that in the quickest way that we can,” Marco said. “It’s a matter of us in a community trying to work together.”
City Manager William Giroux said the City Council probably will vote on the matter Wednesday night.
The meeting begins at 7:30 with the swearing in of new councilors, and the “dangerous building” hearing is one of the last on the agenda. The council will consider whether to demolish the building, he said.
The city sent a structural engineer to the Orchard home and determined it to be structurally unsafe, Giroux said.
The engineer said a snow load could cause the roof to collapse, he said.
Scott Davis, the city’s code enforcement officer, said he has “grave concerns” for the Orchards’ safety. The hole in the roof, he said, it at least a couple of feet in diameter.
“We have worked with them over the last few years to try to get them to relocate,” Giroux said, “but we haven’t been successful.”
The Orchards don’t believe they’re in danger.
“This house was leaning this way 40 years before we bought it,” said Alan Orchard, a retired carpenter. “I’m not a complete dummy, you know, but that’s the way they treat you.”
The couple also are left with a $400 bill from the engineer.
“I didn’t want that engineer coming in and taking all those pictures,” Alan Orchard said.
Among all his worries, Wednesday night’s City Council decision is not one of them.
“I don’t care,” he said. “What can I do?”