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Volunteers rally to help family remodel deplorable Daytona home
News-Journal - 12/7/2018
Dec. 07--DAYTONA BEACH -- The disturbing news has become so familiar: unattended children left to wander away from a squalid and unsafe home.
With this news usually come arrests, negativity on social media and then the shame for the family who let their living conditions degrade to the level of criminal neglect.
Bobby Harris, a commercial driver for a local company, saw the news and the condemnations on the internet. He's seen it before, but this time he couldn't stop thinking about it.
"The story just moved me. The comments were very harsh," said Harris, a member of the ministry Kingdom Life Daytona who gathered a team to go meet the family and offer help. "I understand that it's because of the situation in which the children were found, but if we are just going to beat this family down and not try to help them, then you know, that's not love."
The revelation last month of the deplorable conditions at 831 Pinewood St. and what came after has left the family -- a grandmother, daughter and her two children -- splintered.
[READ MORE: Mother and grandmother charged with child neglect after Daytona police find rancid home]
Brelinda Rose, 44, and her daughter, Natasha Johnson, 22, were arrested Oct. 12 after Daytona Beach police said they were called about a 2-year-old boy clad only in a diaper seen walking down Mason Avenue around 8:45 a.m. The wandering child case led police to the Pinewood Street home described by investigators as squalid and foul-smelling that one responding police officer had to step outside to vomit.
Police also discovered that an 11-year-old girl, believed to be autistic, also lived at the home, reports state.
When contacted by The News-Journal, Rose said her attorney advised her not to speak about the situation, but said she wanted to let the community know she is grateful.
"It warms my heart to see all the goodness in the people who are helping me," Rose said. "I'm very thankful for their help."
Harris and a program of his ministry #WeWork gathered a group that soon began working to get the home in a habitable condition to allow Rose and Johnson to be together again and get the family "back on track."
#WeWork's mission is to be of help and show God's love through assisting families in need, the homeless, veterans and anyone who needs help regardless of gender, race, faults or income, Harris said.
The work on Rose's floor should be completed soon but the group is coming up short on funding a central air/heating system and cabinets.
"It's all about this family, it's all about the kids," Harris said. "We don't want to just get this house back in living conditions without the children being brought back in."
The goal is to get the family home for Christmastime but there is a lot to be done before then.
John Harrell, spokesman for the Florida Department of Children and Families, would not say if his agency is at this point considering allowing the children to come back to the Pinewood Street home.
The case is under investigation and the children are safe and well, Harrell said.
"We deeply care for the well-being of the children," Harrell said. "We are working to provide services to the children and looking out for what's in their best interest."
City records show the house has been on the radar of Daytona Beach code enforcement since 2008. Complaints range from junk cars to an unkempt lawn to animals running free.
About a week after the arrests, more than 30 volunteers donned on masks, removed all the furniture and emptied the house. They restored the cut-off water service with money the group raised. They rented dumpsters to clear the home.
"We cleaned this whole house as you can see," Harris said, pointing to old mattresses and piles of old furniture stacked in the driveway.
The condition of the house will require a significant amount of work and community effort to make it livable. On top of the home lacking central air and heat, the cabinetry needs to be taken out or remodeled.
Police said the furniture had mold and hundreds of dead insects covered the floor and counter tops. The smell inside was a mix of feces, urine and mold and one of the main sources of the foul smells was the refrigerator, which was packed with rotted food.
"It was pretty bad in there," Harris said. "I understand everybody is not able to give financially, but the team that came out, they gave their blood, sweat and tears. They did what they could."
Harris said he would like to see more people from the community pitch in to help bring back Rose home.
"We need money but anybody who can just donate their time redoing the cabinetry or fixing it, whatever they can, we would love them to come," Harris said.
Restoration and counseling
Once all the hard work is done and the home is again livable, there is the possibility that the family could slip back into a neglectful situation. But Rose is now getting help.
"In order to have a new beginning we must accept our part in a situation like this," said Robin Sturgis, founder of the nonprofit, She's Covered.
Other local nonprofits are joining the effort aimed at getting Rose back in her home. Sturgis' organization helps in situations that include the need for counseling for hoarding and housekeeping.
"She (Rose) has accepted that and is ready for a fresh start with counseling," Sturgis said.
The therapy will include mental counseling, home-making lessons, parenting classes and other help that will keep Rose and her family on track so the home doesn't fall back into squalor, Sturgis said.
Harris said he and his group are also now helping another family found in a deplorable home on Nov. 7. Daytona Beach police were led to the Fairmount Road house after a child was found wandering in the middle of Dunn Avenue, authorities said.
"The Veronica Morris Project on Fairmount still needs bedding," Harris said when asked about that effort. "But with limited resources it's not easy to have projects done in a few days. So I just keep in touch with the Fairmount Road family and let them know soon as I get funds I will definitely brings them some beds for twin beds for the kids."
Even though the home is a two-bedroom, four children, a mother and grandmother live in the home, Harris said.
These are people who just happened to fall down in life and need help, Harris said. Rose's day job is for a private company at the Volusia County landfill.
"The grandmother still works two jobs," Harris said. "She has been at the landfill for 10 years making minimum wage and she works at Wendy's at night."
"The grandmother, she is doing well as she can," Harris said. "But overall the community effort is to have a place the children can call home and feel like home."
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