Finding a quality rental in Appalachia is difficult, but when you have a disability that requires modifications to your living space, it can be impossible. However, Kathy Kiser, a resident of Gauley Bridge, WV, has just moved into a newly remodeled apartment that allows her wheelchair to move freely through the doorways. She no longer has to spend most of her time confined to her bedroom. Fahe Member Southern Appalachian Labor School (SALS) played a large role in Kiser’s major life improvement and she isn’t the only one. SALS is also improving the lives of several other residents at Regina Three Rivers Apartments through their rehabilitation work that is transforming the run-down apartment complex into safe, affordable, and high quality homes.
SALS is based out of Oak Hill, WV and serves the counties of Clay, Fayette, Kanawha, Raleigh, and Nicholas. SALS brings change to Appalachia and empowers people through housing, workers’ education, and community service.
SALS was recently featured in the Beckley, WV-based Register Herald, for their work in the town of Gauley Bridge, where Three Rivers Apartments are located. The 24-unit complex had fallen into disrepair. There were squatters in the unrented units and the remaining families had few options for relocation.
“There is a real problem with affordable housing in the area. There’s a void,” said John David, Director of SALS. “One of SALS’ major concerns is helping to provide housing that is decent and affordable. These residents have mined coal and fought in wars. They deserve to live somewhere safe and healthy.”
Currently residents have been staying in their apartments until they can be moved to other remodeled units as they are finished.
Verna Underwood, another resident, stated that she couldn’t wait to move into her own apartment and that it was nice to see people happy and proud of the place they live. She felt that people who have pride in their home and take better care of the space and themselves.
SALS will have 19 unclaimed units for families with Section 8 housing vouchers through the Raleigh County Housing Authority.
“It’s important to make people feel like someone cares,” said David. “But it’s also important to make sure low-income housing is suitable.”
For residents like Kathy Kiser, the apartment renovations are more than suitable, they’re empowering and life changing.