Three physically handicapped Alexandrians who expected to be evicted from their deteriorating, church-owned rooming house after Christmas, instead have been given a rent-free home in the city by a local politician.
"Oh Lord, I wish I could see this place," said Hazel Walker, 60, who is blind, as she sat on the gold carpeted stairs of the seven-room row house at 533 East Luray Ave. "But I can feel the carpet with my feet."
"This is the greatest Christmas present I have had since I was a child," said Walter Yancey, 46, who uses a voice amplifier to be heard since his larynx was removed in a cancer operation several years ago.
Alexandria Del. Gary R. Myers, a Republican, Yesterday acknowledged that he is the person who has offered shelter to Hazel Walker, her son, George Walker, 37, who has narcolepsy, or sleeping sickness, and Yancey. The small row house where they will live rent-free is owned by an investment company Myers controls.
"The problems these people have diminishes each of us," Myers said yesterday, after being reached at home. "All we are doing is giving them a chance to get their life organized. The city of Alexandria was beginning to look very bad because of this. We are simply trying to help," he said.
The group has been unable to find inexpensive living quarters since the Mount Jezreel Baptist Church ordered them out of its rundown rooming house last August. The church wants to renovate the structure at 411 N. Fayette St. so it can charge more in rent than the $60 per month each tenant now pays.
The tenants hoped to stay together because they have developed a unique way of compensating for each other's disabilities. George Walker and Yancey can "see" for the blind Hazel Walker. In turn, she wakes her son up when he dozes off, or interprets for Yancy, whose voices often sounds garbled through his voice amplifier.
Under the arrangement worked out between Myers and Patricia Ryab Yohay, the group's attorney, the tenants can live in the house rent-free until city officials find them a place where they can stay together. Alexandria housing officials have said this may be difficult because of the decreasing supply of moderately-priced rental housing in the city.
Potential problems were set aside yesterday as the group looked around the new home, where they will move sometime this week. "If we had been thrown out of the other place, I would have slept in my car," George Walker said. "This is really great, it's really all right."
Myers added that he and three other city businessmen each had contributed $50 to help the group buy furniture and supplies. "The private sector is perfectly capable of helping people in need," said the one-term delegate, who did not seek reelection. "This is just an example of people helping other people, which is what this country is all about."