Andrew Dys

Rock Hill mother’s death could leave her family homeless

The Wright family of adults with disabilities and other problems lost their mother last month at age 81 – and with her the basic money from Social Security that kept the bills paid. Now the family of four can’t find money to pay an electricity due this week and the rent is coming up in days and the future looks bleak. On Monday, Andy Wright gets a hug from his daughter, Michelle Wright, as he holds a 2013 edition of The Herald, showing a photo of his mother, Martha Wright, when their house burned.
The Wright family of adults with disabilities and other problems lost their mother last month at age 81 – and with her the basic money from Social Security that kept the bills paid. Now the family of four can’t find money to pay an electricity due this week and the rent is coming up in days and the future looks bleak. On Monday, Andy Wright gets a hug from his daughter, Michelle Wright, as he holds a 2013 edition of The Herald, showing a photo of his mother, Martha Wright, when their house burned. aburriss@heraldonline.com

As 2016 presidential candidates of both parties parade through Rock Hill to talk about America, no candidate ever comes to Arch Street and asks the Wright family about their America.

There are no big venues for speeches or talk about Iran deals or capital gains taxes or lofty debates about political polls and numbers on Arch Street. There is, in at one house where the Wrights live, despair.

The Wright family is among the 19 percent of Rock Hill residents – that’s about one in five people – who live in poverty. They are the people who live silently, wondering if this month is the month that gets them. Nobody frets about Iranian nukes when the overdue light bill is more threatening than a mushroom cloud.

The only numbers are red – meaning money owed – and the only poll is informal, and all four people in the house take part.

The Wright family is, the poll shows unanimously, terrified of being homeless.

Again.

And in the dark.

Again.

“I am scared; we are all scared,” said Janice Wright. “Scared of being homeless. Living in the streets.”

Janice Wright is 61, and she cries when she thinks that she might lose her home.

Martha Wright, the family matriarch, died last month at 81. The government benefits that paid for the family to survive died with her. Her husband of 52 years died several years ago.

Bills have a life of their own. Rent never dies. The light bill always lives. The family had to arrange an installment plan to pay to bury Martha Wright.

A couple of years ago, the family home burned down. The Wrights had nothing. They moved to a rental house on Arch Street and made do with a couple of kerosene heaters in the winter. Food stamps help the family get by.

Janice Wright works part-time at Catawba Baptist Church. The older of two brothers, Andy Wright, is disabled after working for years in maintenance. His 28-year-old daughter, Michelle Wright, attended special needs classes while in school. Younger brother Johnny Wright stayed home the last few years to take care of their ailing mother.

Martha Wright – who lived through the fire on her 79th birthday that took all she had worked for all her life – wanted more than anything to keep the family together. They somehow made it work while she was alive.

The family had no insurance on the house that burned in 2013 because they couldn’t afford it after having paid off the house.

Everything burned in that fire – except for the family’s love for each other.

“Everybody helped,” said Johnny Wright. “Momma wanted us to stay together as a family.”

Many at Catawba Baptist Church continue to be generous with the family, as they have since the fire two years ago, said the Rev. Ron Richardson.

“We have helped them and we will help them,” the pastor said.

For the past two years, the Wrights managed to pay the rent paid and keep the lights and telephone – the old push-button kind – thanks to the $900-a-month Social Security check Martha Wright received. They lived on third-hand couches and beds.

But now there is no Social Security.

“We are really struggling,” Andy Wright said. “We don’t know where we are gonna land.”

Michelle Wright put it this way: “We are up the creek without a boat or a paddle.”

The $223.37 utility bill is almost due.

“Thursday,” said Andy Wright.

A person who heard about the Wright family situation donated $300 to help pay the rent that is due in a couple of weeks. The family needs $350 more, and they don’t have it.

The Wrights don’t have money. But they have a church that cares for them. And they have love and hope.

They have each other.

Over the next few weeks, as all those bills come due, the Wrights will find out if love and hope and each other are enough to survive.

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