Reminder Assistant Editor
AGAWAM The house at 1075 Main St. was supposed to be like any other American home during the holidays: a Christmas tree brightly lit in the living room window, a child's paper snowflakes outlining the door frames, twinkle lights illuminating the landscaping and a holiday welcome mat on the front porch to let Santa know milk and cookies would be waiting for him inside.
However, this home, like many others facing foreclosure during this nations' housing crisis, is a home without decorations, without electricity or heat and without Christmas cheer. Like so many families in Western Massachusetts who've fallen behind, the story of the Hauser family is a cautionary tale of how life can turn from triumph to tragedy.
The Hauser family was living the American dream when they purchased their house in 2004. Melanie and Scott Hauser lived with their two dogs and three children Michael, now 15 years old, Aaron, four years old and Scotty, two years old in a 20-foot trailer for over a year in order to save enough money to purchase a home.
The house was once filled with furniture; the garage was packed with two motorcycles, a van, snow blower and lawn mower. Aaron and Scotty shared a room decorated with drawings of SpongeBob on a motorcycle and their other favorite superheroes, such as Spiderman. But all of that is gone now. The dogs had to be given up for adoption and everything has been sold except for the bedroom furniture to try and avoid foreclosure.
Melanie said that through various tag sales over the summer they were only able to raise $5,000 and Option One Mortgage Company wanted $12,000 in back mortgage payments. An effort to have a short sale of the house also failed as the date of foreclosure is set for Dec. 18.
Melanie said previous Christmases were filled with presents and holiday cheer for her family. She was working full time at IHOP and Scott is still employed as a mechanic at Malkoon Motors in Feeding Hills. However, Melanie said a faulty refinance from a mortgage broker caused her family to go into foreclosure. Prior to the refinance, the monthly mortgage payments were $1,075 but after the refinance, which included other bills such as credit card debt, their mortgage became $2,006 a month.
Due to an illness called a ketone blockage, which has caused a catheter to be put in her body just last week, Melanie has been unable to work or to afford childcare. She said she has been hospitalized several times for dehydration as well, adding that her primary health concern has been the nourishment and well being of her children, not her own.
Working overtime, Melanie said Scott had been able to make approximately $3,200 per month but the bills totaled $4,700, not including groceries. Last Wednesday, Western Massachusetts Electric Company shut off the electricity due to failure of payment causing the family to move into Melanie's cousin's three-bedroom apartment in Westfield. Melanie said she has been giving what she can for each bill, adding that she just paid $200 to the electric company.
All efforts to receive aid from federal, state and local agencies have also been met with failure. Melanie missed the deadline to receive Christmas toys through the Salvation Army; her family has only qualified for $8 of food stamps per month because of Scott's high income; assistance for childcare has also been denied for that reason, she said; and the food pantries were only able to give two bags of groceries per month.
"I've been going to the food pantries but they don't give us enough to survive on," she said.
As for Christmas this year, Melanie said, there will be no such occasion for her family.
"I've already had to tell the kids that we may not have Christmas," she said. "They cry every day. They want to know why they can't do this and why they can't do that and can't understand why we can't go buy winter boots or hats and gloves."
She added that even Michael is trying to do his part by getting a job at Taco Bell. Melanie said her eldest son is very embarrassed by their misfortune and refuses to tell anyone at school. Last Wednesday morning, Scotty had been wearing the same Pull Ups Training Pants for the past two days and Melanie was wondering how she was going to feed them lunch, let alone get her much-needed prescriptions filled.
Melanie said her next step, regardless of her health problems, is to apply for third-shift employment so that she may work in the evenings and take care of Aaron and Scotty during the day while Scott is at work.
"Employment is my only option," she said, because all avenues of receiving assistance have failed.
Melanie said she is asking for help from the community on behalf of her children. When asked if she or Scott needed anything, she said they have only been concerned for the well being of their children at Christmas, whether it is toys or a holiday dinner at her cousin's apartment located at 1220 Russell Rd. in Westfield.
As of last week Melanie said they had been approved to move into an apartment in Westfield on Jan. 1, providing they could come up with first month's rent and a security deposit.
"It brings tears to my eyes knowing [my children] deserve more," she said.