GREENFIELD — They find it funny the glass in the front window didn’t break. It’s the only thing they can bring themselves to laugh about.
The whole house shifted right off its foundation when that truck smashed into the bedroom wall, splitting the siding from the ground to the rafters, turning the concrete front porch to rubble. But the glass didn’t shatter; it’s still intact in every window. Proof of good craftsmanship, Jerry Hoover joked.
A week has passed since Jerry and Kellie Hoover were forced from their Greenfield home after a pickup truck collided with it, causing major damage and prompting city officials to declare it unsafe to live in.
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They’d called that place in the 500 block of East Street their home for more than 30 years – it’s where they raised their daughter, saw her off to school each morning from first grade to graduation; where their grandkids came to visit, to run around the backyard, laughing, making memories.
Now, they’re homeless.
Kellie Hoover’s voice cracks a bit as she utters the word; it’s a strange thing to think about, being homeless, she says.
And they aren’t holding out hope for rebuilding, the Hoovers said: repairing the old house would carry a hefty pricetag, and they admit they were already struggling to get by, opting to cancel their homeowner’s insurance in an attempt to make ends meet.
They thought they’d be OK, they said. But how do you plan for something like this?
Police are still trying to piece together what happened. The driver, 33-year-old Megan Rowe, didn’t survive; the Greenfield woman was involved in as many as five accidents before her car crashed into the Hoovers’ home in the 500 block of North East Street. She suffered serious internal injuries in the accident, police said, and first-responders weren’t able to revive her.
Kellie Hoover was home alone when the accident happened, still in bed asleep, tired from a late-night custodial shift at St. Michael School in Greenfield. Her husband was at their daughter’s home, helping care for their four grandchildren.
Her alarm hadn’t gone off, and that’s perhaps the luckiest thing that could have happened — at noon when that pickup came barreling toward her home, she’d have been seated at the little computer desk, checking emails before getting ready for work, she said.
The sound of the impact, followed by sirens soon after, woke her, the car having smashed through the far edge of the bedroom where she’d been sleeping seconds before. She rushed outside — scared and confused but unhurt — and met a police officer who kindly started asking if she was OK, she recalled.
She watched from a safe place in her front yard as fire department medics pulled Rowe from the car, placed her in an ambulance and drove away, worrying about what would become of her.
Kellie Hoover can’t stop thinking about Rowe, even amid all her grief and anger, she said. The Hoovers feel so sorry for her family, their loss, as they shoulder the reality of their own hardship.
A few more inches to the right, and Rowe would have missed their home and struck the tree out front instead, Jerry Hoover said, thinking about his wife and how close she came to being injured.
City officials arrived shortly after the accident. The damage was just too great, they said; they let the Hoovers quickly grab a few valuables, a bag or two of clothing, then roped off the house with caution tape and pasted a red warning sign on the door.
It was only after the commotion subsided that it all started to sink in, the Hoovers said: What would they do now? Where would they live? How would they collect their belongings? Their furniture? The Christmas decorations from the attic?
The Hoovers called their daughter, whom they’ve been staying with ever since, and confided they had recently canceled their homeowners insurance policy — a way to make ends meet.
Jerry Hoover suffered a stroke in 2011 that keeps him from working. Kellie Hoover holds down several part-time jobs, but caring for her husband takes up a lot of her time, she said. The couple had had trouble keeping up with the bills for months.
The couple’s daughter, Krissy Schultheiss, was taken aback. Her parents aren’t the type to ask for help, to admit they were struggling.
“I wish I would have known,” she said. “I would have done anything to help them.”
The family isn’t yet sure what will become of the place on East Street that houses so many memories. The homeowners are responsible for hiring an engineer to determine if their house is repairable; if they choose to abandon the residence for good, the city could move forward with demolition — but that process can take years, said Joanie Fitzwater, the city’s planning and building director.
Kellie Hoover looks back on the last few years, the steps they took to pinch pennies, and is filled with regret; homeowners insurance felt like one expense they could do without.
“It came down to that policy or paying the electric bill,” she said. “I just thought it would help …”
Jerry and Kellie Hoovers’ home was badly damaged after a car crashed into it on Feb. 2, prompting city officials to declare it structurally unsound.
Their family has created a GoFundMe page with a $25,000 goal to help the couple get by. To donate, visit: www.gofundme.com/am3jw6-emergency-house-fund