Duncan resident Emmer "Ma Honey" McHenry, 87, was overjoyed at the sight of her new house, a complete turnaround from the old structure at the same address that was falling apart and infested with rats.
"It feels so good — so good. I don't believe this is my house," said McHenry.
The reconstruction was made possible by the Home Investment Partnerships Grant Program for Homeowner Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Projects.
Bolivar County Supervisors and County Administrator Will Hooker applied on behalf of McHenry due to the unlivable status of her previous home.
"Everything was going down — the roof was leaking, the floors were bad, the plumbing," said McHenry. "It was just tearing apart."
Conditions had been bad for many years, and daughter Birdie Horn was thrilled to see the deserving overhaul.
"It was in such bad shape," said Horn. "She took care of so many kids from the community and they really tore it apart."
Horn said McHenry cared for about 15 children in the home, some her own and some from the local neighborhood.
"The worst part was the rats," said Horn. "The rats would look at you like you were invading their privacy."
The new home comes at an ideal time for McHenry as she's spent significant time in the hospital and nursing home after recent amputations of both legs.
"I'm blessed and I want to thank the people for making this happen," she said. "I never imagined I'd live in a brand new house."
Hooker helped McHenry, and homeowners in Shaw and Cleveland, receive over $300,000 in extremely competitive HOME grant money in December of 2012.
The program is supported by the Mississippi Development Authority and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
"It's been about 10 years since we last received this grant, so we're very excited to move forward, get these houses done and reapply for more money," said Hooker, in a previous Bolivar Commercial story.
There are strict guidelines for eligibility, including complete ownership of the house, the home must be in dire need of reconstruction and the homeowner must be in a low-income financial bracket.
Hooker said receiving the money is a difficult task considering applicants for the grant come from across Mississippi.
"There are many people in Bolivar County who might meet the qualifications, but receiving the money is a very selective process," said Hooker. "Unfortunately, we can't apply for everyone who qualifies."
HOME funding, which is distributed annually, is be used by municipalities, counties and relevant non-profits to assist the eligible homeowners — these entities often apply on behalf of the homeowners.
"It's great to see events like this happen in the deserving areas," said Supervisor Preston Billings. "It's well needed and the HOME program benefits those that need it most."
Decent, safe, sanitary and affordable housing is the ultimate goal of HOME, with HUD making the final determination on applicants.
Repairs focus on correcting defects in plumbing, roofing, heating and insulation, but houses in great disrepair can also be demolished and rebuilt, as is the case with the Bolivar County recipients.
"I want to thank everyone so much for this," said McHenry. "This is a really special moment for me."
Horn said family members would help her mother as continues to recover from the surgeries. The new home is keeping her in good spirits.