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Wineka column: Facing a mountain of trouble, Kepley just wants to stay in her home

SALISBURY – It’s hard to know where to begin with Lori Kepley.
She has been through so much – a disabling workplace accident, challenging family issues, bankruptcy, foreclosure and now cancer.
Kepley deserves compassion. She is worn out and overwhelmed by her health and finances, but she desperately wants to hang onto a house that, truthfully, she can’t afford.
“I’ve spent my whole life doing for other people,” she says. “I’m about to lose it all.”
With her disability and cancer treatments ahead of her, Kepley simply wants to stay put, though housing counselors – caring people who try as hard as possible to keep owners from losing their homes – have put it to her bluntly.
She should walk away.
Her monthly disability of $1,285 is enough that she could live comfortably, for example, in public housing or find a less expensive place to rent. But it’s not enough to pay the monthly mortgage of $1,262 on her two-story home in Fairfield and survive.
Kepley understands the math, but moving is not an option she wants to hear.
“I can’t understand how I can lose my house after I kept it all these years,” she says. “I want to make my payments. I’m just looking for someone out there to give me a chance.”
Kepley was served foreclosure papers on her house in June, just days after an emergency court hearing granted her full disability. She says she hasn’t made a mortgage payment in a year, but now finally has an income.
Kepley has been working with the Salisbury Community Development Corp. to modify her loan with Ocwen Financial Services, which deals with high-risk loans. Though the CDC keeps trying, it doesn’t look promising because of what she owes and the disability’s being her only source of income.
More than handouts, Kepley needs ideas and advice. If it comes to this point, the best help might come in the form of people – who could help her move.
Again, it’s not something Kepley wants to consider yet.
In 2002, she spread her late mother’s ashes in the yard under a 4-foot angel.
Also in this house, Kepley raised her son – then 5, now 21. For much of the time, she was mother for her daughter’s three children, including twin girls who are now 12.
To know Kepley’s situation today, it’s hard to imagine that five years ago, she was a Family Dollar manager making more than $50,000 a year.
Then came the accident. One morning before she opened the store on East Innes Street, Kepley bent down to scrape some gum off the floor with a box cutter.
She didn’t realize the gum was over an exposed and energized electrical conduit poking through the floor (and left over from when the building was a grocery store).
The shock literally knocked Kepley off her feet and threw her against some shelving. She was transported to the hospital by ambulance. That was Jan. 9, 2008, and she returned to work for about a month before her left arm started curling or clubbing.
What she calls her “electrocution” led to RSD – reflex sympathetic dystrophy – a condition that, for her, has meant considerable shoulder and arm pain and muscle atrophy.
Kepley required nerve blocks, and a TENS unit for the pain was installed in her right hip. She also has gone to a pain clinic in Concord for monthly treatments. Kepley says her left arm is useless.
She received a settlement from Family Dollar that lifted her out of the bankruptcy she already was in when the accident happened. Again, she says, she was going through all her money trying to support others.
Because she couldn’t work, she exhausted her savings to live. She kept on making house payments, increasing under the adjustable rate mortgage,
Kepley acknowledges now she should have tried to refinance and get from under the burdensome terms.
Kepley, who speaks with a husky voice, also has had tremendous problems with her vocal chords. To make a long story short, polyps were lasered off this spring and in August, doctors detected a cancer for which Kepley will begin having radiation treatments in October, after a sleep study is performed.
Meanwhile, she says a hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 27 on the foreclosure.
When Kepley divorced about a dozen years ago, she got the house, which is now both her refuge and albatross. Her son has moved back into the home with her, and he has tried to help by paying the utility bills.
“He’s a good kid,” she says.
Her grandchildren have gone back with their mother for now.
As she went through her savings, Kepley also depended on food stamps and help from Rowan Helping Ministries.
Friends who know of her circumstances often have helped her by fixing things when they break – with her car or house.
Still, these are the toughest of times for Lori Kepley. “It’s kind of like Harvard to homeless – the opposite of the movie,” she says.Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263,or mwineka@salisburypost.com.

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