LAKE WALES, Fla. — If you walk down any given street in Northwest Lake Wales, you’ll notice many of the homes are in need of an upgrade. The city says it’ll do the work for free for its older residents.
Thelma Bowens, 88, has lived in her Lake Wales home since 1968.
“I’ve been here longer than anyone else on this whole little block,” Bowens said.
The retired Polk County Schools employee has always taken pride in her home where she raised four children.
“I live here, and I want it to look presentable. I always kept it, tried to keep it presentable,” she said.
But it’s seen better days.
“I can't afford a new roof. A new roof costs a lot of money,” said Bowens.
That’s why the Lake Wales Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) is stepping in to help Bowens and other seniors through its Legacy Housing Rehabilitation program.
They’re providing homeowners a free roof repair or replacement and a fresh coat of paint. To qualify, you must be at least 65 years old and live in the Northwest neighborhood.
“The average median income is a little under $20,000 per year. And as you know seniors 65 and older are on fixed incomes and we want to make sure that’s a stress that they don’t have to deal with,” said Darrell Starling, CRA Coordinator.
Starling said the program is a way of honoring the generation that helped grow the once-thriving business district, and it’s the city’s first step in revitalizing the area.
“Sometimes they get left behind or sometimes left to the side but city administration and leaders have recognized that we have to make sure that we’re respecting the legacy that they’re leaving,” he said.
The deadline to apply for the Legacy Housing Rehabilitation program is June 14, 2021.