Jessica Meyers, 28, spent Tuesday afternoon in a bidding war with her next door neighbor over the home she has been living in for the past 8 years.
"Honestly, this whole time, this was my home," said Meyers. "I can't believe he stopped bidding."
Meyers has been more than a squatter in her West Philly home. She spent time fixing up the place and came into the auction with a little bit of money and a whole lot of hope.
Out of 196 homes up for grabs by the Philadelphia Housing Authority, Meyers' home was 187th on the list. During the wait at the First District Plaza where the auction was held, Meyers and her friend Amira Dvorah sat, discussing their strategy for bidding. The highest they decided to go was $7,000. Meyers' dad told her to bid $1, but after talking with the auctioneer's staff, she learned they set the starting bid amount.
The starting bid for her home was $1,000.
A man in the back of the room bid. Meyers and her friends stood in the front of the room together with frowns on their faces. They all looked back to see who was bidding. It was her neighbor.
They went back and forth a handful of times.
Meyers had hoped to get the property for a few thousand dollars. It wasn't looking good.
As the bidding got tense and Meyers got a little uncertain, Dvorah looked at her and said, "Do it!"
With that, she raised her yellow auction paddle number once again, going over her limit.
Meyers won the bidding war and will buy her first home for $8,000. The moment brought Meyers to tears. Her friends swooped in quickly with big hugs.
"I can't believe it. We never get anything," said Shayne Webb of New York City, who is also a squatter. Webb, along with members of Occupy Philly, came to the auction to support Meyers.
If there's such a thing as a fairy godmother, Amira Dvorah would be it for Meyers.
Dvorah lent Meyers enough money to come to the auction. Winning bidders had to put up a minimum of $2,500.
Now she has about 45 days to come up with the rest of the money.
Meyers gets by on odd jobs like cleaning, painting, sewing and gardening and she does it mostly for her West Philly neighbors. But she doesn't make enough to buy her first home. So she started a fund-raising campaign online to see if she could crowd-source the funds. So far, she's raised $3,000 on Indiegogo.
Meyers grew up in Syracuse and had moved around but settled in Philadelphia about 10 years ago. She and her friends began squatting at the home 8 years ago. Meyers has three roommates and they consider themselves an asset to the neighborhood. They helped clean up the street and pushed the drug dealers out of the house once they took up residence. They've installed new windows and a new roof on both the house and porch. They have a petition in hand, signatures of 200 people, attesting to their positive impact on the community.
However, the opposing bidder wanted the home too. Meyers believes he wanted it to fix it up and sell it. The neighbor, who does not live there, did not want to be interviewed for this story.
"I had no control over this day. It's the hands of fate," said Meyers.
Meyers says she wants to create a nonprofit to help other people who are homeless become homeowners too. Fate was on Meyers side today.