The Knob Hill Property Owners Association of Augusta, Georgia has blocked a paralyzed, African-American veteran from receiving a new home that would have been specialized for his health needs. Homes For Our Troops has built over 100 homes for severely disabled vets like Sgt. 1st Class Sean Gittens, which would otherwise be unaffordable for these heroes. Leaders of Homes For Our Troops are saddened by the opposition of the subdivision leaders, and tried to negotiate to keep the family in the area where they are already renting a house. Despite these efforts, the Gittens clan announced at a recent press conference that moving is preferable to staying someplace they are not wanted. The Augusta Chronicle reports:
The association had blocked construction of the Gittens home after months of negotiations because it believed the house would lower neighboring property values. Homes for Our Troops said it would continue to work to get a design approved, but ultimately left the decision up to the Gittens family, which currently rents a home in the subdivision. [...]
Sharon Gittens, Sean’s wife, told news media Monday the family decided not to stay in Knob Hill because they did not feel they would be welcome. At the press conference, she said was ready to put the situation behind her and thanked neighbors who had supported her family. She asked them to encourage the association to embrace the veterans and not worry so much about property values.
The president of the Knob Hill Property Owners Association sent his regrets via email, but did not attend the press conference at which the final decision was announced. To this treatment, Sharon Gittens responded: “I think if this was important to them, a least one representative from the board would have been here today.” Every member was probably too ashamed.
The actions of this board are appalling, but in the end Sgt. 1st Class Sean Gittens will likely continue to work with Homes For Our Troops until they find a community willing to reward a wounded warrior. In fact, a Homes For Our Troops representative “said it’s the first time a build has been blocked by a homeowners association,” according to The Augusta Chronicle. Hopefully, if shame is catching, it will be the last.
When Homes For Our Troops develops homes with wider doors, ramps and other unusual fittings, disabled veteran like Sean Gittens are empowered to function more easily in life, a costly gift but one that is deserved. It is beyond comprehension that a group like The Knob Hill Property Owners Association would be more concerned with the appearance of a newly constructed house and how it might impact a neighborhood than the well being of a person who willingly made such a large sacrifice.
A home that makes life easier for a disabled veteran might not match the cookie-cutter specifications of neighboring domiciles. But rather than having a neighborhood that looks “nice,” sharing a street with a paralyzed soldier is an opportunity for true neighbors to demonstrate love in a community. The Knob Hill Property Owners Association missed out on this chance, in fact revealing the chilly hearts that must permeate their hollow houses.
Let’s hope Sgt. 1st Class Sean Gittens and his family are able to successfully work with Homes For Our Troops to find a place where his condition won’t be considered a stigma. Once they build that house, the right community will help them make it a perfect home.