An Orlando woman's home needs repairs or could be condemned. Here's how her neighbors are helping


  • Photo Courtesy Carolina Escobar

After moving to Orlando homeless in 1989 and with only $500 in her pocket, Theresa Defairia worked hard to eventually purchase her own small home that same year. It had been scheduled for demolition but she bought it "just in time."

The one-story, chipped-white home is overgrown with weeds so tall they overtake the chicken-wire-covered windows. Although she says the 1,800-square-foot house suits her just fine, the city of Orlando disagrees. Officials say that without badly needed repairs and utilities, she'll have to move out by the second week of June.

The city of Orlando told Defairia that her home would be condemned due to issues with the roofing, the exterior paneling and sinking porch. This motivated Defairia's friend Carolina Escobar to quickly post a GoFundMe page to help Defairia keep her property. Escobar met Defairia a couple of years ago, when she delivered food through Meals on Wheels to her and others in need.

The city of Orlando does not know the situation inside the home, but Escobar stated that there are "cockroaches, there's mosquitoes, there's like all kinds of stuff inside."
As of May 30, the GoFundMe call to action has amassed $5,871 within nine days, toward a goal of $50,000. Escobar hopes to raise the additional $46,000 to help her friend salvage her home after the city of Orlando ordered necessary repairs be made within 28 days. Without the repairs, Defairia faces having her home condemned.

"I don't think we will get everything done by then but we are going to try," Escobar said.

Despite Defairia's housing circumstances, Escobar says she is "just so full of life and friendly and always wanting to talk." Escobar also recognized Defairia for her humble personality.

Escobar is primarily in need of funds to complete the project. People wanting to help are asked to donate through the GoFundMe page. Although she has already received numerous offers from willing volunteers, Escobar hopes to gather contractors, electricians, roofers, inspectors, builders, plumbers, "DIYers," animal lovers, "handymen" and donations, so Defairia and her 19 rescued pit bulls can remain in their home.

"I know this is a very difficult time for everybody, but every dollar counts," Escobar stated in a video. "If you can only donate a dollar, it will add up ... and there is no shame in only donating one or two dollars."

On Wednesdays and Saturdays, Escobar gathers her friends and family to help with gardening and clearing the exterior of the home. On May 30, 12 volunteers came together and removed weeds from the side of the house and cleared the sinking front porch of furniture.

The City had previously visited Defairia's house regarding her electricity and water, which had been turned off for about seven years at that point. Defairia said that her neighbors kept "harassing" her pit bulls, so she put her "babies" inside the house. However, the dogs began gnawing at the water pipes and she was forced to turn off the water and electricity and slept outside on the porch.
  • Photo Courtesy Carolina Escobar
When the city showed up her doorstep after seven years of having no running water or electricity, Defairia was given 72 hours by the city to get her electricity and water running, or she would face eviction. She was able to get the money and fix the problem within twenty minutes.

Escobar says the money raised by the GoFundMe will first be used to fix all of the exterior necessities documented by the city. Defairia said if there is any more money donated than what is needed for her home repairs, she will use it to help others in need.

"If there is money left over, I hope that I will be able, if someone comes to me and needs a few dollars to help them, why not? God blessed me," Defairia said. "Because to hoard something, I don't like to hoard baby ... he blessed me and if he send somebody to me, that ask for help, oh heck yes."
  • Photo Courtesy Carolina Escobar
As more and more progress is made on the house, Escobar still plans to paint the interior and exterior of the house when it is deemed safe to do so. The entire roof must still be done, but she is waiting for more funds via GoFundMe.

"I'm very grateful and god bless all of ya'll and I look forward to seeing you Saturday and I'm thankful that God has, um, blessed us for all of us to get ready to shine. Thank you so very much," Defairia said in a video Escobar posted on Facebook.

This story had additional reporting by Natalia Jaramillo.

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