Community helps build home of 96-year-old Houston woman

Poppy Slater

The effects of time and exposure to the elements have led to significant damage of Ruby Terrell’s home.

HOUSTON — Community leaders, volunteers, and businesses are coming together to completely remodel one senior citizen’s home in Southeast Houston for free.

“I’m just feeling overjoyed,” said Ruby Terrell, 86, who lives in the home with her grandsons.

Terrell has lived in the house on Gibbons Street, in Smith Addition, since 1969, when she and her husband purchased it. Mr. Terrell, a World War II veteran, died in the mid-1980s, but Mrs. Terrell continued to live there.

The effects of time and exposure to the elements have led the home to develop significant deferred maintenance.

“I couldn’t do anything,” said Terrell, who walks with a cane and is on a fixed income.

In the fall of 2021, Ruby’s son, Sam, worked with Janice Carter, who grew up in this tight-knit community and works with the local civic club, to fix up the house.

When Sam passed away in December, Carter didn’t give up.

“We felt like we’ve got to come in here and we’ve gotta help her,” said Carter.

Carter reached out to City Council Member Robert Gallegos. He represents the area that falls under Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Complete Communities program.

“These are neighborhoods that have been neglected for decades,” said Gallegos. “We are able to do some improvements, and this right here is a showcase of what Complete Communities is all about.”

Gallegos’ office brought in the nonprofit Tejano Center for Community Concerns, which utilized grants and coordinated contractors.

“The outpouring was just amazing,” said Richard Rodriguez, Housing Director for Tejano Center for Community Concerns. “These guys couldn’t wait to help, and then it facilitated other organizations joining in. Lowe’s donated all the appliances. Dominion Air has donated a central air system. This house has never had a central air system.”

Rodriguez says due to the extent of the damage, crews took the home down to the studs and are creating “literally a brand-new house” with about $35,000 worth of new electrical, plumbing, flooring, a bathroom, and a kitchen.

Once work started, Tejano Center covered the cost of relocating Terrell to a hotel and putting her belongings in a storage unit.

Meanwhile, Carter’s heard from other neighbors wanting help.

“This is their home, and we want them to stay here,” said Carter. “We want to help them any kind of way that we can.

She and others hope Terrell’s home renovation can be the first step in preserving a neighborhood.

“I am so pleased and so thankful,” said Terrell.

The house should be done by the end of April. Volunteers and city staffers are hoping Mayor Turner and Shannon Buggs, Director of Complete Communities, can be there when Terrell walks into her new home for the first time.

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https://www.khou.com/article/news/investigations/stands-for-houston/houston-senior-citizen-home-renovated/285-2ccb210a-b762-4404-882d-826e99c15c8a

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