Jessica Meyers is about a week from becoming the owner of the home she had been squatting in for the past eight years.
In July, she had the opportunity to bid and buy the property at a Philadelphia Housing Authority auction. Meyers won the PHA auction for $8,000. In addition to the purchase price, she has $1,900 in additional fees and closing costs. The scheduled closing is just over a week away.
"It's not easy keeping a house," said Robert Spencer, who remembered when Meyers first began squatting directly across the street in their West Philadelphia neighborhood.
Meyers has used her creativity and the goodwill of strangers to raise the $8,900 needed to purchase the home. She is just a few hundred dollars away from her goal.
It took two online fund raising campaigns that netted about $4,000, and $2,000 in donations from friends. The remaining $3,000 she raised herself by doing light contracting, cleanup jobs and selling a majority of her belongings at a flea market. She had hoped to organize a car wash but it fell through.
Although the money to purchase the home is just about secured, Meyers is now facing the repair issues that come with a home that's been neglected and technically vacant for so long. The water and electric have been turned off and then there are interior repairs needed, all of which could cost upwards of an additional $5,000.
A few weeks ago, a new set of challenges emerged.
The neighboring row home, which is vacant, had a tree growing out of it in the rear. In August, the tree came down, causing part of the wall to collapse, with bricks falling onto Meyers' future property.
She's been in touch with the title company and is hopeful they can work with PHA and the auction company to arrange for a price reduction on the purchase amount due to the recent damage to the home.
Meyers called 311 daily for a week, and even 911, to request License & Inspection come out to cover and secure the gaping hole in the next door structure so there is no collapse. The daughter of the registered homeowner told Meyers by phone that she'd fix the problem. But, Meyers is concerned when and if the repair will be done and if further problems may arise.
None of this has dampened Meyers' determination to buy the house.
"Everybody always wants something bad to happen," said Meyers. "I'm so excited. I still have the house and I'm still positive about it."
Her West Philadelphia neighbors uniformly admire her desire to own a home on their block. The house sits among more than a dozen vacant and boarded up houses. The neighbors are friendly, sit on porches and greet passersby. Spencer said raccoons, squirrels and possums have plagued the neighborhood over the years.
Mark Gay recalled three times over the years different agencies have tried to put Meyers out of the home. But, Meyers stood her ground. She attends the block parties and participates in block cleanup, according to Gay.
"She's a good person. If anyone deserves that house she does," said Gay. "She's trying to do something positive."
Meyers is proud of adding something to the neighborhood, cleaning it up and pushing the drug dealers out of the house she calls home.
"If all squatters were like her, it would be wonderful," said neighbor Bee Maurer. "They are a welcomed addition. They weren't just taking from the neighborhood they were putting something in."