After two months of huddling under a blanket in her Milford home to stay warm, Alice, who didn’t want to use her last name, said city and utility company efforts to get her heat by Christmas was one of the best gifts she could have received.
“I am so warm right now, it’s great,” the Milford woman said.
Alice has lived in the Cape Cod-style home on Cricklewood Road for more than 40 years. She raised three children there, and when money got a bit tight, she just didn’t want to leave the house.
When her oil furnace broke in October, she had to struggle to come up with money to pay for a replacement.
“It was a lot of little things,” she said, explaining the lack of ready cash. “I got behind on this, that or the other thing.”
Social Security goes up 1.5% a year, and the cost of living climbs at about 5%, she added.
So, faced with a cost of about $6,000 to replace her furnace, she stalled while trying to arrange the financing.
“I was just using space heaters and the oven to stay warm,” Alice said, and that meant weathering some very cold days in November and December. One morning it was only 38 degrees in the house.
“I lived under blankets, wearing a coat and hat,” she said. “Now I look back and it was kind of an adventure, but it was not fun at the time.”
She called Milford’s Department of Human Services to see if they could help out with the furnace bill, and she was referred to Tom Ivers, who oversees community block grant dollars.
Ivers talked Alice into not only applying for a zero interest loan designed for people struggling financially, but he also talked her into making some other much-needed improvements to her home with those dollars.
Among the upgrades, he convinced her to switch from oil to gas heat, a move that, with a 95% efficient furnace, would save her money in the long run.
The only problem was that a gas line ended about 100 feet from Alice’s property, so there would be some scurrying required to get Alice heat by Christmas, Ivers said.
“I thought it might take three months to get the job done, but it got done in weeks,” Ivers said.
He and Alice think it was the Christmas spirit that got people, from the gas company to the city’s building department to everyone else involved, to rearrange schedules and hurry the project. First the gas line had to be extended, then Alice’s house had to be connected to the line, plus the new furnace and meter had to be installed. There is quite a bit of coordination required before the okay is given to install the meter and get the gas flowing, Ivers said.
The block grant loan provided enough funds to install the new system and to extend the gas line to Alice’s property. There was also enough to install a new gas hot water heater, and since Alice had an electric hot water heater before, she expects to save a good amount of money there too. She’s also going to put in replacement windows, and have a dishwasher hooked up that someone had given her but she had never paid to make operational.
Alice said the loan doesn’t have to be repaid until the house is sold.
She’s excited about all that, but the heat is the best part, and she is very happy the holiday spirit visited her house.
“I was under the impression that this wouldn’t be done until after Christmas,” Alice said. “Lo and behold, I got the best Christmas present ever.”
The Milford Community Development Department provides zero interest, deferred payment loans for this type of home repair and improvement project. The program is funded by HUD through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. Federally established income eligibility guidelines apply. Applications and program information can be obtained by calling 203-783-3230.