Robeson County woman, cats get new homes
Posted September 3, 2009
Updated September 4, 2009
Saint Pauls, N.C. — Three years after her home was condemned by the city, Lessie Smith and nearly all of her cats have found new places to live.
Smith’s previous home in St. Pauls had flies and roaches, a leaky ceiling and a bedroom with no ceiling. She also cared for 61 cats, after one stray cat kept visiting and having kittens.
“I didn’t want animal control taking them down there and putting them to sleep. I wanted them to have a good life,” Smith said.
Felicia Locklear, a code enforcement officer for the five-county Lumber River Council of Governments, received a complaint about the home in 2006. “The floorboards were rotting out. They were all uneven,” she said.
Locklear had to condemn the home but applied for a grant through the state Department of Commerce’s Division of Community Assistance.
The grant was enough for Smith to purchase a $40,000 modular home, with three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
Smith refused to leave her original home, though, until all of her cats were taken care of.
Katherine Gable, who was with the Humane Society in 2006, helped find new homes for all the cats. Only two kittens had to be euthanized. Smith said she never knew about the Humane Society, and that’s why she cared for the cats herself.
“She had no money for herself, and everything she had was going toward the cats,” Gable said.
A local pastor helped Smith fix up the house so Smith could stay there until she could move into her new home.
On Aug. 20, Smith moved into the modular home. Four days later, her old house – the one she was born in in July 1941 – was demolished.
“It was home because I was born and raised there. But it’s better to get out of. I was glad to see it go down,” Smith said.
Smith called her new home a gift from God. She lives there with her two parakeets and doesn’t plan to get any more cats – although cat statues decorate the new home.
“I love them, but they’re in a good home. I never wanted this to happen," Smith said.
A fund has been set up to help Smith pay the $2,900 it cost to demolish her old home. The Lessie W. Smith Home Demolition Fund is through the First Bank of St. Pauls located on Broad Street.