- Associated Press - Sunday, December 6, 2015

MACON, Ga. (AP) - From a low-backed chair in her front room, Dorothy “Dot” Gastin watches TV most days.

“Judge Judy,” football, the NBA, whatever’s on.

Sometimes she listens to gospel music. She likes rap too. Tupac is her favorite.

Slowed by a stroke a few years ago, at age 70 she sometimes struggles to find the right words.

Dot doesn’t much mention the house crumbling around her.

The place is three years older than she is. The roof leaks. So does the plumbing. The water was shut off in early 2014.

She and her late husband, Jimmy, and their three boys moved into the 1,700-square-foot brick house in the early 1980s. In those days, more folks knew the neighborhood there on Patterson Street as Cherokee Gardens.

Dot’s son, Brad, 46, laughs at the name now.

“This,” he says, “a subdivision?”

The street parallels Pio Nono Avenue, which lies a block to the west. Dot’s house is just north of Montpelier Avenue, between a CVS and the old castlelike A.L. Miller High School.

Dot hears gunshots every night, but they mostly come from the other side of Pio Nono in Unionville. There isn’t much trouble on her street.

“The people are nice,” she says.

Her leaky roof, over time, has made the ceilings sag. Dot has all but abandoned the kitchen. She sometimes cooks on a hot plate.

There are water jugs in the bathroom to flush the toilet. Dot goes to a friend’s place to shower.

The cost to fix the mess is more than she can afford.

Brad, her son who lives with her, does what he can around the house. But fending off the decay will take money they don’t have.

When Dot’s husband died in 1987, he had worked for two decades as a custodian at Coliseum Hospital. At Jimmy’s funeral, someone from the hospital offered Dot a job in housekeeping. For 20 years after that, she worked the midnight shift, mopping hospital floors and cleaning rooms.

“I loved it, too,” Dot says.

Her husband’s father was Joe Gastin, the city’s first black police officer.

Dot always told her sons to be dependable, responsible.

“Be somebody, boy,” she’d say. “Make every day count.”

One of Dot’s closest friends, Naomi Grace, has spent months trying to find help for Dot.

“She’s a very sweet heart, a beautiful person,” Grace says. “I don’t know how she survived these last years. … Ain’t nobody in 2015 got no business living in these conditions.”

Grace got in touch with a woman named Debra Rollins.

Rollins is the executive director of Rebuilding Macon, an organization that caters to poor and disabled homeowners.

Rollins says Dot’s house is repairable.

“If we can get her some running water,” Rollins says.

That will first cost $300. Plumbing repairs could run another $1,000. Other fixes and heating, which the house also lacks, could cost another $1,000 or more.

“We can get the house taken care of,” Rollins says. “I’m not gonna let a person live in a house without running water.”


Information from: The Macon Telegraph, https://www.macontelegraph.com

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