Life was already very difficult for Katherine and Otis Hall, as their daughter, disabled husband, and four grandchildren crowded into the couple’s three-bedroom septuagenarian home.
Then, one day about a year ago, their 35-year-old daughter started complaining that she was feeling ill. It was the beginning of a series of heart attacks that left her permanently incapacitated in a hospital bed.
With their daughter unable to walk or speak and their daughter’s husband recovering In their home from a stroke, it has fallen to Katherine and Otis to parent their four young grandchildren, ages 1 to 9. And do it in a run-down house.
Their Boynton Beach home is breezy, hot and crowded. The centerpiece is a living room where the crib jostles a space with sofas, shelves, and a coffee table, while a box fan vibrates in the open entryway.
Like its owners, the house is aging and worn out. The air conditioning has been out for months. The shower in the hallway bathroom overflows, rendering it useless. Before school, children often wash in the tub instead.
The dishwasher is also out of order. At night, the halls close the screen-free windows to keep insects from sneaking in and to take away their nights in the sweltering heat.
You work three jobs to get it
What hasn’t been broken is the couple’s determination to keep everything together. Otis, 70, works part-time at Chick-fil-A and does landscaping work on weekends. In his spare time, he earns extra money as an Uber driver.
Katherine, 71, spends her mornings dropping off the two oldest children to school, then taking care of the two youngest at home. She keeps the house clean and prepares meals. The three oldest children share a bedroom — the two girls, Jniya, 8, and Jonetia, 3, squeeze into one bed, and the boy, Jemon, 9, into the other.
“It’s not easy,” Katherine says, “but I thank the Lord for taking me through it.”
When she can, Katherine heads to Bethesda East Hospital to visit her daughter. She doesn’t seem to recognize children. But as soon as Katherine laid the baby, Hor Herm, on the bed with her, Katherine felt her daughter’s body swaying, as if she was trying to speak.
And though she can’t communicate, Katherine is convinced her daughter still recognizes her.
“There’s something in her eye when she looks at me,” she said. “I thank the Lord she is still alive.”
Katherine wishes to see her more often. But she also worries about how to take care of her in the long run. If her daughter is discharged from the hospital, she will likely need full-time care and specialized equipment to keep her alive, things that are hard for the Halls to accommodate in their cramped home.
With limited incomes and the growing needs of their grandchildren, the Halls needed a great deal of help. Their home requires major improvements, including plumbing and appliance repairs, a new air-conditioning system, and a truck for Otis to haul his landscaping equipment (he often has to rent a U-Haul).
Jounieh needs corrective surgery to fix a hip problem that is causing one leg to be longer than the other. All children need new clothes and shoes as they grow, as well as a new computer for them to study and play on holidays.
The Palm Beach County Legal Aid Society estimates that the Halls need $45,000 in donations to create a suitable home environment for their four grandchildren. This includes funds for a new air conditioning system, plumbing to fix a leaky shower, and new furniture and appliances. The family also needs new clothes, computers, Christmas toys for the kids, and a truck for Otis Hall to transport his landscaping equipment.
Candidacy: Palm Beach County Legal Aid Association