I can’t afford to live where I have called home, and it’s heartbreaking.
My name is Courtney McCoy. I’m 32 years old and I live in Blacksburg and have for the majority of my life. When I was 15 and 1/2 I started EMT classes at Virginia tech whilst attending high school at Blacksburg High (class of 07-graduated early). I became a certified EMT by 16 and was captain of the Junior crew on Longshop-McCoy rescue where I served for three years and won multiple awards and served in an officer position. I then moved to Blacksburg rescue where I spent two more years volunteering for our beautiful community. Due to all I learned on 4/16, a disaster response team in Miami wanted me to help write disaster relief plans so I moved and became the disaster response coordinator for the south Florida region. I went on multiple deployments with the American Red Cross and I spent a year in Americorps. My entire identity was service to my community. This place and the people who make it the best place on earth to live are the ones I want to continue to advocate for in ways I’m able. When I was 23 I was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy, it turned my life completely upside down and caused a barrage of health issues and with them, the medical bills. I’m drowning in medical debt and I will never be able to get a loan for a home on disability. Ever. No one who makes less than 16K a year is ever going to get a home loan.That doesn’t happen. I currently live in a 5th wheel that I had to start a go fund me to get and in order to live in it-I have to crawl in and out of it risking breaking bones every time I want to be in the sunshine or leave my home. I desperately seek affordable, accessible housing. I never once helped anyone with the intention of ever having to ask for help myself one day, it’s very difficult for me to be on the other side of helping folks-receiving help. I’m in no way afraid to work, and if given the opportunity to become a part of this initiative that goes beyond telling my story I would welcome the opportunity to serve in any capacity I’m capable. This last year and a half I’ve lost 100lbs because the cost of living is so high that I have to fast every other day because I choose between medication and food. I’m not here to tell a sob story to anyone, I am not here for a hand out as I’ve worked for 501c3s for long enough to know a hand up beats a hand out every time, I’m here to welcome you into the home I’ve made for myself so you can see how I live. I’m here to tell an uncomfortable truth. I sleep in layered hoodies and long johns at night in the winter and have to use kerosene heat as a disabled person in a small extremely flammable tin can (trust me they burn fast, I know-BVRS has to standby for house fires) that I probably won’t be able to get out of if something were to happen. I sweat through my sheets in the summer, and I’m unable to safely leave my home due to weather events (icy stairs=broken bones when you’re disabled) oftentimes. I’m so grateful for everything that I have, please do not get me wrong but folks need to hear from real residents of Blacksburg who have called this gorgeous place home for the entirety of their lives. I’m going to have to move if I don’t find housing soon, away from ALL of my doctors; my family members who by the way also have muscular dystrophy and I’m responsible for the care of (my mother and grandmother), my entire support system. I love this place it is my home but I can no longer afford to live safely here. My mother and grandmother were diagnosed late in life and able to work through this disease, I was diagnosed so early in life, I really didn’t stand a chance but not early enough (before 18) to receive any Medicaid or help and I have always worked at least one 9-5 if not two to support my volunteer habit when I was able to volunteer. I spent a decade working with the most vulnerable populations in this town; now I’m part of them. My perspective is unique and absolutely no one can sit back and say that I’m entitled when I’m firstly not asking for anything that folks don’t deserve, and secondly, people will resonate with what I have to say because I’m compelling and so is my story. I’ve worked for the American Red Cross, I have volunteered thousands of hours of my time to this community and all I ask for in return is a chance to tell you my story, a chance to give you some perspective from the folks who can not get out of the “mud”. I’m bombarded with medical bills every single day. Bill collectors calling. The roof on my RV is leaking. You won’t find someone more grateful for what they have but you also won’t find a more compelling speaker who can articulate the issues many of us are facing, ESPECIALLY your disabled community here in Blacksburg that is totally forgotten; just take a roll in any wheelchair on any street besides main. We need SAFE and affordable housing, please. I do not know how many more winters I can or will survive in this RV. Please let me speak to power and speak truth. Please let me articulate our needs. Please let me advocate for myself and folks like me. I’m begging you and I’m also willing to help find a solution instead of just complaining.
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