ORLANDO, Fla. – Theresa DeFairia is one step closer to getting a new home. Construction crews have completed extensive demo work, replaced trusses, shored up the foundation and framed the walls on her 1940s home.
The latest sign of progress, a new roof.
1st Class roofing donated labor and supplies to the project.
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The sound of a compressor and nail gun echoed through the Parramore neighborhood and DeFairia couldn’t be happier.
“Pop, pop, pop and I knew them shingles was going on,” DeFairia said as she looked on. “I said hallelujah.”
It’s been far too quiet for far too long at 32 Pershing Place.
“Today is a big day. Today is a big day. I was like a little kid when the truck pulled up. I was up there doing like this,” DeFairia said, clapping. “I was so happy.”
Glenn Roberts, owner of 1st Class Roofing, looked on as his workers set row after row of shingles.
“We came across the project last year and we fell in love with the story,” Roberts said, adding that he tries to donate one roof a year to needy homeowners.
“It touched our hearts and we were like this is something we need to do,” Roberts said. “It feels right.”
News 6 first shared her story in 2020 after the City of Orlando was set to condemn her property.
DeFairia lives on disability assistance and social security. It’s enough to pay the mortgage but not much else. Over time the home slipped into what most people would consider an uninhabitable condition. A tree branch fell on the roof during a storm, causing damage. Water intrusion followed.
Despite it all, DeFairia is full of life, full of energy and full of optimism.
“I think it’s beautiful, even in the raggedy condition,” DeFairia said, as she remembers years past. “When I see it, I see it all renewed and restored.”
The property caught the attention of code enforcement who issued a notice to condemn if the property was not cleaned up and water and power service restored. DeFairia had three days to comply.
DeFairia started making desperate calls. Friend, Carolina Escobar, answered.
Escobar first met “Ms. Theresa” as she calls her while delivering Meals on Wheels. The two became good friends but DeFairia hid her living conditions. “No one knew she was living like this,” Escobar said.
Escobar quickly took to social media and arranged a weekend cleanup and eventually a GoFundMe account.
After the story aired on News6, DeFairia received donations and community support. But progress has been slow. Contractors found major structural problems. Permitting created more delays.
Escobar has reached out to politicians and nonprofits for help.
All the while DeFairia has been staying with friends.
Frank Wells, CEO of The Central Florida Regional Housing Trust, has offered guidance.
“This is a big challenge. But his is hardly the only time we’ve seen a story like this,” Wells said. “We recognize that for someone like this who has lived in a home she loves for a long time and is comfortable here, this is a great place to be and any other outcome is going to create all kinds of other expenses as well as jeopardizing her health.”
Wells said Escobar’s drive to help her friend is inspiring.
“She’s been a total community hero to make this happen,” Wells said.” It’s absolutely amazing and I can’t imagine how Ms. Theresa would get through this without this kind of community advocacy.”
Orange Avenue Construction has offered their services to the project. Owner, Anthony Roy expects the home will be closed in soon then work can begin inside. There is still a long way to go until DeFaria can move back in.
Up until this point DeFairia has relied on faith. All the newfound help has only reinforced her belief.
“I want to stay here because I love it here,” DeFairia said. This is where God sent me.”
If you’d like to help Ms. Theresa, you can contact Commissioner Regina Hill with the City of Orlando.
If you would like to donate, DeFairia has a GoFundMe page.