Local man looks for someone to step up and help
Published 9:11 am Monday, June 22, 2015
Although Linda Cressell is 62 years old and has lived on Highway 91 in Stoney Creek for 20 years, very few people know her.
Cressell’s reclusive lifestyle has kept almost everyone from knowing much about her or her struggles and her living conditions — until this week.
Until recently, Cressell says she has only had two people she could call on for help — her neighbor Gary Osborne and a business acquaintance, Robin Meredith.
Now, she has a third: Louie Greene, who met Cressell at a local business last week and, noticing her physical impairments, offered his help.
Cressell’s right arm is paralyzed, and she has limited use of her left arm and hand. She doesn’t know what happened to her right arm, but that “two years ago, it began hurting real bad, and when the pain quit, my arm went,” she said during an interview last week.
She says the limited movement in her left arm is due to a torn tendon in her shoulder and the subsequent surgery to repair it. “It never did do right after the surgery,” Cressell said.
In his attempt to help Cressell, Greene visited her home; he said he was “appalled” at what he saw. “I could not believe someone was living in such squalid conditions,” Greene said. “I promised both Linda and myself I would try to get her some help.”
He made good on his promise, spending most of this past week going from one agency to another, sharing Cressell’s story and trying to get something done on her behalf.
He visited at least seven different agencies and individuals, including social workers at a hospital where she is a patient. On Wednesday, he visited the Johnson City field office of Rep. Phil Roe.
“The lady there was most helpful, but she told me Linda’s was a state case, not a federal case,” Greene said.
As of Friday, Greene had visited the Department of Human Services, the Carter County Neighborhood Community Center, the Carter County Health Department, the Carter County Planning Commission, Adult Protective Services, Rep. John Holsclaw and Mayor Leon Humphrey — all on Cressell’s behalf.
“I just kept getting referred from one person to another, from agency to agency,” Greene said. “Maybe they didn’t know what to do or were truthful when they said they couldn’t do anything, but surely there is someone out there who can help.”
Cressell’s closest neighbor, Gary Osborne, said the woman had been without water in her home since late December or early January when the water pipes in her tiny house froze and burst. “I have been carrying her a jug of water over from my house every day,” he said.
Osborne said a plumber came and checked the problem, but the conditions were so bad in the home, he refused to go inside the house and do the job. “I can’t either,” Osborne said. “I don’t have the stomach for it.”
Robin Meredith, another of Cressell’s friends, washes her clothes from time to time and gives her a ride home when she goes into town — usually once a month. Without Meredith’s help, Cressell says she has to pay between $90 and $140 for a taxi.
From the exterior, Cressell’s rented home looks like a storage building that has been converted into a small house. It is located next to the highway and has a neatly manicured yard, thanks to Osborne.
Inside, the scene is much different. The kitchen is littered with cans and bottles and other food items. Cressell said her diet consists mostly of cereal, eggs, bacon, toast and jelly, saying it is difficult for her to open bottles and jars.
Clothing and other items are strewn about the living room and bedroom area, and Cressell said she sleeps on her sofa most of the time. A small table next to the sofa holds a number of pill bottles, some of which were emptied onto the table and floor. Cressell said she had prescribed medications for a heart condition, thyroid problem, high cholesterol and a couple of other medical conditions. “I know what each pill is for,” she assured me.
The commode in her bathroom is covered with dried feces and other matter; a cooking pot that Cressell had used to fill the tank with water was stored in the tank.
Cressell admits she needs help with keeping both herself and her house clean, and said she would like to have better living conditions. “But right now, this is the best I can do,” she said.
Her rent is $100 a month, and according to Osborne, the property and house is owned by an individual who lives in Granite Falls, N.C. Cressell said she has never seen her landlord or spoken with her, but she has mailed a check once a month for her rent — up until this month. “I didn’t send a check,” she said. “I wrote a letter, telling her I wasn’t going to pay any more rent until she fixed my water.”
Cressell draws a disability check from which she pays her rent, utilities and other bills. Her electric bill usually averages $200 a month, but she has no air conditioning and says she uses electric heaters for warmth in the winter.
“Afer I pay my bills, I use whatever is left to buy groceries,” she added.
Cressell is from Wise, Va., and said she moved to the area several years ago with her second husband, Dewey Akers, who passed away. “When we first moved here, we lived in Roan Mountain on the Old Railroad Grade Road,” she said. “I later moved to Hampton, and then to where I live now,” she said.
She has three children, but said she has not had contact with them in more than 10 years. “I guess they still live in Wise, and probably have children of their own,” she said.
In her earlier years, Cressell said she worked at a cotton mill, a furniture factory and in restaurants. “It hasn’t always been this way,” she said.
Earlier this week, Osborne said a Carter County Sheriff’s Department deputy had made a welfare check at the home and a case worker with the Department of Human Services had visited.
When contacted by the Elizabethton Star, Devon Stone of the Adult Protective Services Communications Office said he couldn’t provide any answers to questions concerning Cressell’s situation. “We cannot talk about cases with the public,” Stone said.
However, the district supervisor for Adult Protective Services in Johnson City confirmed that Cressell’s case is active and “is a very delicate matter.”
“We’re hoping to have a solution to this case soon,” she said.
Greene and Meredith say they just hope someone will step up and do something so that when Cressell is discharged from the hospital — perhaps as early as Monday — she will not have to go back to her house on Stoney Creek. “No one should have to live in those conditions, not even a dog,” Meredith said.
Greene agreed. “We can turn our heads and look the other way and we can pass the buck, but that doesn’t mean it will go away. A church is located exactly one-half mile from her house, and there are two more a short distance up the road.
“But, it’s not anything against them, it’s against all of us,” Greene said. “We live in such a land of plenty, and Linda Cressell has been allowed to fall through the cracks.”
“I’m not a righteous person. I’m far from it,” he added. “But Christianity is about helping our neighbors and those in need, and as a community we need to step up and help people like Linda Cressell,” he said.
Cressell admits she does not go out of her way to make friends and has never attended any of the churches around her.
But, at this point, Greene says, it’s not a question of who is at fault here; it is about who is going to step up and help.