Gurney's Inn
January 17, 2007

Lily's House Brought Home

Sometimes, there are happy endings.

Just as temperatures begin to plunge, members of a family who have been living in a substandard, run-down trailer will find themselves warm and secure in a new home.

Reverend Holly Haile Davis of the Shinnecock Reservation reported this week that, after a lengthy struggle, efforts to raise funds geared toward moving a house donated to the family onto the reservation have paid off: The house was moved recently to its new home, and the family is set to move in at the end of this week.

For a three-generation family, the house symbolizes a new beginning. Lily,* a 44-year-old mother of four grown children and six grandchildren, has long been working two jobs and battling ill health as she struggled valiantly to raise her grandchildren in a home that was sorely lacking. On disability, Lily battled each day in poor living conditions — windows that wouldn't close and a roof that was caving in.

When he heard of Lily's plight, local builder Michael White donated a three-bedroom house to the family, but funds were needed to physically transport the house to its new home on the reservation.

Haile Davis, founding pastor of the Padoquohan Medicine Lodge, Inc., an inter-faith fellowship on the reservation formed "to serve the creator and humankind," galvanized to get the word out — and this Sunday, during a service given at the First Universalist Church of Southold, she had good news to share: "It is with great joy that we announce a recent success," she said.

Lily's story, she said, is testament to "the kind of community that is able, and, more important, willing, to make good things happen."

But Lily's story only serves to highlight a problem that is rampant on the reservation. The Padoquohan Medicine Lodge, Inc. is focused on a number of issues, including the growing crisis of unsafe, unhealthy and overcrowded housing on the Shinnecock Reservation, something Haile Davis said is a "persistent problem."

A number of factors contribute to the dire housing dilemma, she said, including the fact that residents on the reservation can't build new homes because they are unable to secure mortgages; many of those living on the property do not have salaried positions. The result is a reality of multiple generations crowded into substandard homes and mired in poverty.

"We haven't been trained in earlier generations to compete in the modern world, so we have a problem that just continues because there's no way out of that inability to get equity for a mortgage," Haile Davis said.

If others step up to join the Padoquohan Medicine Lodge members on their walk to provide a better way of life, those in need of shelter, food, health care and employment might share Lily's happy ending, she said.

During Sunday's service, Haile Davis and her siblings, The Thunderbird Sisters, Rebecca Genia and Tina Tarrant, gave thanks to a community who joined hands to help in a crisis.

"It was a matter of life and death, literally, for this family," said Genia. "It's hard to describe because you had to see how they were living to believe it." The sisters concluded the service with a hymn. "Our burden is heavy," they sang. "We need help to bear it."

*Name has been changed for privacy.

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