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Ashland family purchases dream home with help from community

Jason and Vanessa houk hug and smile in front of their new house in Bear Creek Mobile Home Park. (Carsyn Currier/News 10)

An Ashland family purchased their dream home with help from the community after losing all of their belongings in the Almeda fire. The family said it's a full-circle moment, moving into one of two homes that survived within their previous neighborhood, Bear Creek Mobile Home Park.

"To be able to come back into the park. It's unbelievable, I almost burst into tears. We're coming back home," said Vanessa Houk, fire survivor.

Vanessa and her husband, Jason Houk, said they never imagined they would be back in the park so soon following the fires and they never imagined they would be moving into the home where Vanessa and her daughters were rescued Sept. 8.

"This was the spot where Vanessa and the girls took refuge before they were rescued during the fire — by miracle it survived," Jason Houk said. "The owners decided they didn't want to return so we were able to purchase it thanks to amazing donations by the community."

Following the Almeda fire, a friend of the Houk family started a GoFundMe campaign in their honor. After the seller of the house reached out to the Houk family and asked them if they were interested, the Houks started promoting the GoFundMe once again. At this time, the account has raised $42,224 for the family. Jason Houk said the family could never have purchased the house if it wasn't for the GoFundMe, FEMA, Red Cross and a hefty donation from Grown Rogue.

"Our first idea was to go to the credit union to get a loan, and unfortunately they turned us down," Jason said. "We thought there was no way we would be able to do this, but amazingly we put it back out into the universe with the GoFundMe campaign and people supported it. Even after so much giving that folks had already given, they gave a little more, and through a lot of moving money around and an amazing donation from Grown Rogue, we were able to buy this house."

The Houks will move into the home in June, and they said they're making it a priority to help rebuild their community, noting that a lot of their previous neighbors left the area because they couldn't find affordable housing.

"Theoretically folks could be returning here by summer. The reality is that there is such a back order for mobile homes that our neighbors are talking about 2022 spring before being able to return," Jason said.

The family said they're grateful and have an enormous weight off their shoulders now that they have a place to call home. On the other hand, they said the housing crisis and lack of affordable RVs make them worry about neighbors returning to the park. Before the family signed on their new home, they said they looked across the West Coast to find a mobile home and were met with red tape.

Vanessa said purchasing a brand new mobile home is too pricey for many of the family's neighbors.

"A lot of neighbors, because they lived in the older units like we did, ours was a 1970 mobile home, when we bought it it was $18,000. Getting a new home, even a single wide, it's $80,000 closer to $100,000," Vanessa said.

Vanessa said a lot of their neighbors were seniors, people on a fixed income or disabled. She said they're facing a tremendous burden when trying to purchase a mobile home because they're getting priced out.

"All of our neighbors are priced out, we were all underinsured, and no one got settlements enough to buy new places," Jason said.

Vanessa added, "When FEMA paid we got $13,000, that was nice but it doesn't go very far."