Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Update - 803 S. College St.

In a previous post, I wrote how the house at 803 S. College St. had gone into foreclosure, but now has some new owners. Those new owners are going before HARC Aug. 27 to try and get permission to demolish the garage on the property so they can add an addition to the house. The drawing to the left is what the new owners propose to do.

Update: HARC approved the demolition of the old garage, so the new owners are going to be able to proceed with this addition. The garage was demolished on Labor Day.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Price House

This beautiful Eastlake-style Victorian house sits at 209 E. 10th St., just a few blocks down from my house. I just finished reading the most amazing book that details the lives of the first owners of this house. The original owner, Mr. Price, was a founding attorney in the law firm of Makemson, Fisher & Price. Mr. Price and his wife had six children who grew up in this house. One of them, Early Price, saved all the letters that were written to her by her family and her many suitors. Early's granddaughter, Louise Walsh, has recently finished compiling a book that contains all these letters, as well as many photographs and memorabilia from the early 1900s that relate to the Price family.

To read more about Louise Walsh and her book, visit http://www.southwestern.edu/newsroom/story.php?id=1418

Louise tells me that this house was originally dark green trimmed with cream and red accents. It stayed in the Price family until the 1950s, and has had many owners since. The current owner(s) live outside Georgetown and do not live in the house. They had let the yard get so overgrown that the neighbor across the street had to complain about it to code enforcement. Finally a few weeks ago the weeds and brush got cleared and we can once again see this beautiful house. One thing that had been hidden under all the weeds is a concrete slab that says "PRICE." It's a fascinating reminder about how much history all these old houses in Georgetown have.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Homeless in Georgetown

This is Jan. Her two dogs are Sweetie and Honey. Jan is 62 years old and is trying to survive on a little more than $600 a month that she receives in Social Security disability benefits. She has been homeless for a long time. She is embarassed about her situation, and as a result, has broken off all contact with her five children.

My husband and I spotted Jan a few blocks from our house pushing a shopping cart loaded with all her possessions. This was during a week where temperatures each day were near 105 degrees. No one - human or animals - should have been out in that heat unless it was absolutely necessary, so we resolved to try and do something to help Jan.

The next morning, my husband found Jan sleeping under a tree near the HEB store. Ants were crawling over everything she owned. Jan explained that she was trying to walk back to California. She had taken a train to Texas to visit her brother in San Antonio, who had recently died, and she wanted to get back home. However, she didn't have any money. Her plan was to walk north to Fort Worth and then head west. She had gotten a ride from San Antonio to New Braunfels, but she had walked all the way from San Marcos to Georgetown pushing her shopping cart along the highway feeder roads. Some 10 police officers stopped and talked to her along the way, but no one did anything to help her. Finally, someone from the Williamson County Sheriff's Department sent a truck to pick her up and they put her in the San Gabriel Crisis Center on College Street for 10 days. After the 10 days allowed by Medicare/Medicaid expired, she was dumped back out on the street. This was the night we saw her.

My husband called The Caring Place, which put him in touch with the Georgetown Ministerial Alliance. Deacon Joe Ruiz from St. Helen's Catholic Church was on call that weekend, and he immediately came out to the HEB store and met Jan. He arranged for her and the dogs to spend a few nights at the San Gabriel Motor Court. In the meantime, my husband I and set about to find Jan a way home. Her dogs, who she had found in San Antonio, complicated the situation, but we understood how much they meant to her and we were determined to figure a way to get them back with her. Buses and trains wouldn't take the dogs and all the airlines we called said it was too hot for them to fly pets.

Laura Hobgood-Oster, a Southwestern University religion professor who spends countless hours each week working at the local animal shelter, came to the rescue for us. She said Continental Airlines had special cargo compartments that allowed them to carry pets throughout the year. So our next problem was to get a health certificate for the dogs so they could fly. Here again, Laura came to the rescue. She got a local veterinary clinic to give the dogs an exam and all their shots. She also found two crates that would be large enough for the dogs to fly in.

So once we had health certificates in hand, we made a reservation on Continental from Austin to Los Angeles. Deacon Joe and his church were generous enough to pay the cost of the ticket. In the meantime, several local residents (who will remain anonymous) helped pay the hotel bill so Jan could stay in the motel until it was time to go.

Yesterday, we got up at 4:15 a.m. and drove Jan and the dogs to the airport so she could catch her flight. We gave her a ticket for a bus that would take her out to the Santa Barbara area, where she claimed she had a part-time job waiting for her.

We'll probably never know what happens to Jan, but at least we know one thing - she and her dogs won't be homeless in Texas in 100-plus degree heat.

Spending a week with Jan and hearing her story really opened our eyes to the problem of homelessness in this country. It also showed us the best (and worst) of Georgetown.