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May 15, 2003

New home, new hope of better life for 1 man

From: Toledo Blade, OH - May 15, 2003


LAMBERTVILLE - Just a few hundred yards down the road from large rural Bedford Township estates, Ken Trychel has spent quiet decades in a near woodsman-like existence.

The only heat in his dilapidated home comes from a wood-burning stove in the middle of his living room, where one lamp supplements the sunlight that peers through seams in the walls and ceiling.

The floor of his kitchen noticeably falls whenever someone moves across it; its aging plywood boards are permeated with rainwater that flows around the tarps that cover much of what's left of the roof of his boyhood home.

And for the last 25 years, Mr. Trychel has hauled 5-gallon buckets of water from his neighbor's home every time he has needed to use the toilet or take a bath in the Summerfield Road home.

Any complaints Mr. Trychel may have had about his living conditions were unheard or ignored for most of that time. He is a deaf mute for whom communication with the outside world has been a hurdle too great to overcome.

Now, with the help of a friend's wife who has accepted the role of Mr. Trychel's verbal champion for the last year, the 59-year-old Lambertville man has his first signs of hope for a better life - local agencies and government entities are working together to put him into a new home.

"Nobody has helped this man, ever," said Catarina Nusbaum of Ottawa Lake, who serves as Mr. Trychel's spokesperson. "Can you imagine living like that for all those years, never having access to a shower and having to chop your own wood for heat? I couldn't imagine it."

Bedford Township board members last week took the first steps necessary to demolish Mr. Trychel's home, at 9407 Summerfield, voting that the structure is a "dangerous building" under township ordinances and seeking proposals for it to be torn down.

"This is the first time in all these years that everyone seems to agree with what we are doing with a dangerous building, and there's a possibility of a new home [on the property] as a result of our actions," township clerk Bob Schockman said. "With a lot of different government agencies working in concert, we should be able to help."

And help is exactly what Mr. Trychel needed, although he may or may not have realized it.

"He didn't have anyone to help him," Mrs. Nusbaum explained. "No one had the time."

Mrs. Nusbaum said she learned of Mr. Trychel through her husband, who had grown up in the same neighborhood in which Mr. Trychel still lives. She said that even after she wanted to help him, it took her months to gain his trust.

"He hasn't had water in so long, he doesn't know where the point well is on his property," she said.

The new manufactured home that will be placed on Mr. Trychel's property is exceedingly modest by most standards, with three small bedrooms, a total of about 1,400 square feet, with new working appliances. It will be placed on a foundation that is to be built behind his existing home on the 3.2-acre parcel, and hopefully should be ready by the fall, Mrs. Nusbaum said.

"He's so excited about the new place. He already has a floor plan and a picture of what it's going to look like," Mr. Trychel's champion explained. For his part, Mr. Trychel responds with a thumbs-up and a smile when he shows a visitor what his new home will look like.

The home will be paid for with a series of grants and loans, including a mortgage that Mr. Trychel will have to repay, explained Diane Layhew, housing rehabilitation and development director with the Monroe County Opportunity Program, which is coordinating the effort.

His only source of income is Social Security disability, which he has collected his whole life. That is what he will use to pay the mortgage, according to Mrs. Nusbaum.

"Nothing is being given to him," Mrs. Layhew explained. Several of the loans that will be used to replace Mr. Trychel's home will be listed as deferred liens on his property, meaning he won't have to pay them back until his property is sold or it is passed to his heirs. The money is coming from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Bank, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority's Replacement Housing Program, and Bedford Township's grant and loan fund.

Mrs. Layhew gives Mrs. Nusbaum all the credit in the world for sticking with Mr. Trychel and seeing him through what can be a daunting process.

"[The opportunity program] had been contacted about three different times on this over the years by interested people who wanted to know what they could do, and I would send them a letter, and nobody would follow through," Mrs. Layhew said. "Mrs. Nusbaum took it upon herself to follow through with everything, saying 'we're going to follow through and accomplish this."

© 2003 The Blade.