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News / Clark County News

‘This is a blessing’: Hazel Dell woman moves into a new home after months in ‘uninhabitable’ trailer

Her former home had a hole in the roof and the toilet didn't flush but because she was in arrears on rent no fixes were made

By Mia Ryder-Marks, Columbian staff reporter
Published: March 13, 2024, 5:59pm
4 Photos
Charley Jewell, left, pets dog Hugo while his mom Casey Jewell waits for a call from her lawyer Wednesday at their new home in Vancouver. Casey Jewell previously lived in a nearby mobile home that had a hole in the ceiling and a host of other issues.
Charley Jewell, left, pets dog Hugo while his mom Casey Jewell waits for a call from her lawyer Wednesday at their new home in Vancouver. Casey Jewell previously lived in a nearby mobile home that had a hole in the ceiling and a host of other issues. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Casey Jewell let out a laugh as her dogs, Hugo and Rox, licked her face. Her laughter mixed with the chatter of a game show playing on TV and bounced off the walls of her modest mobile home — the sounds of a fresh start.

She moved into her new home Friday after living in a Hazel Dell mobile home park. There, Jewell had to place buckets under a hole in her kitchen ceiling to catch rainwater. Her toilet also didn’t flush properly.

The Columbian first wrote about Jewell in December. Her former home was in the Hidden RV and Mobile Home Park owned by Michael and Denise Werner of Vancouver. Jewell said she believed her multiple maintenance requests went unfulfilled because she owed more than $8,000 in back rent. While landlords have a duty to keep units habitable, if they don’t, tenants must be current on rent and utilities to enforce a demand for repairs, according to RCW 59.18.080.

During a tour of her new place, Jewell showed The Columbian the bathroom first. She pressed down on the toilet’s flush lever, and a smile broke out on her face when the sound of rushing water filled the room.

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Casey Jewell, left, and her son, Charley Jewell, live in a mobile home with a large hole in the kitchen ceiling. Cassie Jewell said the hole formed last spring and has since grown.
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A pair of pork chops wait in Casey Jewell’s freezer. They’re one of her son’s favorite foods, and she’d like to cook them for him.

“We are having a blast,” Jewell said. “We’re cooking again. Dogs are playing. It’s been a lot better.”

Community support

After reading about Jewell’s plight, community members donated thousands to a GoFundMe account for her.

Chocho Faifai, founder of the faith nonprofit Kingdom Family NW, said the Werners asked him to help Jewell move into a unit in a neighboring mobile home park they own.

Faifai said the Werners helped his family when he was a child, including purchasing his family a car.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to help Casey. … It’s really unfortunate that our society doesn’t have more resources for people like her,” Faifai said. “I’m really thankful that the Werners were able to call us in to lend aid and assistance to her.”

Faifai and his team helped make Jewell’s new residence move-in ready. Jewell said she is grateful for Faifai’s help. Jewell’s son, Charley, had moved out of her former residence because of the home’s conditions. He now lives with Jewell again.

In a statement responding to The Columbian’s inquiries, the Werners said they collaborated with Kingdom Family NW to coordinate Jewell’s move. The Werners’ company Deer Point Meadows donated furniture, installed a new refrigerator, laid new carpet and added trim before Jewell moved in, according to the statement.

Jewell’s old unit will be demolished in the coming weeks, according to the statement.

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“We are grateful to Kingdom Family NW for their help with the move. We are thankful to Ms. Jewell for her cooperation and truly hope and believe she is happy in her new home,” the statement reads.

‘New, safe home’

Even as Jewell received support from the community, her former home’s condition continued to worsen.

Since the December article, The Columbian has checked in on Jewell several times. In a January snow and ice storm, Jewell said her water had been turned off to protect the pipes from bursting during freezing temperatures.

But when The Columbian spoke to Jewell earlier this month, she said the water was not turned back on, despite temperatures rising. For nearly two months, she relied on jugs of water from the store, she said.

The kitchen hole in her mobile home’s ceiling expanded, as seen by photos viewed by The Columbian. Jewell said one maintenance worker visited her home and told her the damage wasn’t fixable.

Before Jewell received the keys to her new home, she had to pay some of the back rent on her old one, she said.

On Wednesday morning, attorneys from Northwest Justice Project sent a letter of demand to the Werners’ attorney.

“Our position is that Ms. Jewell never should have been pressured into paying $2,000. There was no mention of back rent in the lease she was presented, but the landlord wouldn’t provide her with keys until she agreed to pay that amount. She really didn’t have a meaningful choice in the matter. It’s important to say that Ms. Jewell didn’t give up her rights by availing herself of a new, safe home,” said Megan Harney, attorney for Northwest Justice Project.

The letter states that given the “dangerous and uninhabitable” conditions in Jewell’s old home, she should not have to pay any arrears to the Werners.

The letter also demands that Jewell’s rent not be raised for five years. Jewell said she is paying $950 per month for the new unit. She formerly paid $925 per month, plus $50 each month for back rent, for her old unit.

Despite this dispute over back rent, Jewell said she’s just happy to be in a new home.

“This is a blessing,” she said. “I’m just thankful for everyone for the support … for all the prayers that I would get into a better place. It’s kind of hard to put it into words the blessing this is.”

When The Columbian first met Jewell she said all she wanted was to move so she could make her son’s favorite meal, pork chops.

Tonight, she plans to cook it for dinner.

Community Funded Journalism logo

This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

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