- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Fauntroy siblings have lived in the same Northwest home since they were born, surviving many hardships, including the death of their parents.

But their childhood home on Channing Street has fallen into disrepair over the years, and each month the family — Gregory, 20, and his two sisters Jernise, 23, and Tia, 18 — struggles to pay the rising utility bills at the temporary house they’ve been staying in since 2004 as they try to keep their family home afloat.

“In a good month, if we’ve all been out all day and haven’t had to be home to heat the house, the gas bill could be about $200,” Jernise Fauntroy said. “In a bad month, it could be $500.”

Yesterday, the siblings got a break.

Alliance to Save Energy, a national energy conservation group, gave both homes an “energy home makeover” to help the siblings save money.

The group implemented nearly $2,500 in efficiency-improving measures. It replaced windows and sealing, added floor insulation and installed a programmable thermostat and a new water heater.

The group estimates the improvements will save the Fauntroys about $1,000 a year.

“You don’t have to be a millionaire to make easy changes that can add up to real impacts,” said Kateri Callahan, president of the alliance, which spearheaded the makeover as part of its “6 Degrees of Energy Efficiency” initiative. “Our failure to use energy wisely affects the prices we pay to fuel our cars and heat our homes.”

For the past few years, the Fauntroys have lived next door to their childhood home, which they left after their mother died in 2004. Their father died 12 years ago.

They are in the process of renovating the home, which has been in the family for three generations.

The financial burden has taken its toll on the siblings, who have worked various jobs to keep both homes going.

Their older sister Eboni helps when she can, but they mostly have shouldered the load on their own.

They aren’t required to pay rent in their temporary residence, which is owned by their aunt, Frances Robinson. But they have had to pay utility bills for both homes, and property taxes on their childhood home.

The family has had to keep the utilities on in its old house in order to make repairs inside.

Mr. Fauntroy, a driver for a transportation company, has tried to do many of the home repairs himself when he has a spare moment. With his fiancee, Maria Simms, seven months pregnant, he had hoped to have the house up to code by the holiday season.

But the family recently learned of another setback — the house needs between $30,000 and $70,000 in roof repairs.

“Like my mother used to say, if it ain’t one thing, it’s another,” Mr. Fauntroy said. “But we just take it one day at a time. God knows when we need money for a bill … at the end of the month when it’s due, it’s always been there. We always find a way.”

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