At 65, David Lee Geter is a new senior citizen. As he approaches what are supposed to be his golden years, though, Geter is looking straight down the barrel of homelessness.
Geter’s situation has no villains, other than poverty. He is among the real South Carolinians who do not get invited to presidential blogging soirees in Charlotte for the rich and wanna-be-famous, or cocktail parties for artists, or fundraisers for politicians.
This former custodian, missing most of the fingers on one hand thanks to a long-ago cotton mill accident, can be described in two words: dead broke.
Geter does not blame Rock Hill officials for declaring that the Locust Street house he lives in – the house that once belonged to his late parents – as “unsafe.” He knows there are holes in the walls, holes in the roof, mold all around. He knows it would take thousands of dollars just to bring his home close to be safe to inhabit.
He lives on $1,100-and-change a month, barely enough to pay for electricity, heat in the winter, food, medicine, and other living expenses.
From the street, you can see cardboard in a window of the house. A refrigerator on the porch. Exposed beams after a damaged carport was torn down. A house exposed to rain, sleet, heat – anything that Mother Nature can send.
“I hope maybe I can find government housing, an apartment,” Geter said.
Despite inheriting it from his parents, Geter doesn’t officially own the house he has lived in for so long. When his father died 15 years ago, Geter admits that he did not go through the probate process, through which a court parcels out a dead man’s property to survivors.
Geter said his father owed a lot of money, and he feared he would have to pay those debts if he took the house. He said a lawyer advised him to wait to go through probate.
So Geter waited.
And now, 15 years on, the wrecking ball is all but bearing down on his home.
Geter’s interaction with Rock Hill code enforcement officials started in 2013, when inspectors who visited the house likely needed an extra notepad to write down all the violations.
That summer, city officials formally notified Geter about the problems in a hand-delivered letter. He met with city building officials to see if he qualified for any rehabilitation programs the city offers.
Because he doesn’t own the house, he did not qualify.
The city gave Geter several extensions to try to fix the house or to try to work through probate, city spokeswoman Katie Quinn said. But Geter says he doesn‘t have the money for repairs or to pay a lawyer to handle probate.
Geter agrees with city officials that it would take significant repairs to make the house meet minimum standards. He told city officials that demolition was not out of the question.
His deadline is looming. He is scheduled to be in court June 2, city records show. Geter has no other criminal or civil charges against him, state records show. His only “crime” is not having enough money to save his home.
William “Q-Rock” Cureton, who knows Geter from the Pineville AME Zion Church choir and has reached out to people seeking some answers for Geter, concedes that the house is “uninhabitable.”
“People should not have to live in a place like that,” Cureton said.
When Geter goes to court, he will have to tell a judge whether his house is habitable, and there seems to be no doubt it is not.
Unless Geter wins the lottery in the next month, he is hoping to find an apartment. He does not want to wind up on the street.
The house is not great, but it is Geter’s home, and that means something to this senior citizen, this American. It is all he has.
TV commercials tell Geter the years he’s living now are the best of his life. They depict fit geezers on sailboats with sexy girlfriends or wives.
But Geter is wondering if his boat has sunk, and whether the next ceiling he has will not be broken, but open sky.
Andrew Dys • 803-329-4065 • firstname.lastname@example.org