The Transylvania Times -

Nora Jane Montgomery Riding 3,000 Miles To Raise Awareness For Affordable Housing

 

May 14, 2018

Nora Jane Montgomery

On Wednesday, Brevard resident Nora Jane Montgomery embarks on a 3,000-mile bike ride to raise awareness about affordable housing in the United States.

Her journey starts in Key West, Fla., where she and 23 other members of the 2018 Bike and Build expedition will help community members rebuild their homes after Hurricane Irma ravaged the island community in September 2017.

Montgomery said that many of the people who make the small destination island run - those who work in the service industry - have been unable to return to their homes because they have been damaged, and they cannot afford to live anywhere else.

After windows are replaced, shingles fixed and fresh paint dries, the crew heads North – all the way to Calais, Maine, a small town across the St. Croix River from Canada.

Montgomery and her new friends will stop in little towns that need some love and will lend their time.

Each day on the bike, and each day spent in these communities, is planned through organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and Manna, Inc., a nonprofit in Washington D.C., both of which serve the homeless, the displaced and others down on their luck.

Montgomery is a leader on the trip and will guide her crew along the East Coast Greenway - a project in development that will eventually link the major cities along the entire East Coast, connecting 14 states, 450 cities and towns from Maine to Florida, and, when completed, be the country's longest Biking and walking route.

The route doesn't come close to the North Carolina mountains. Instead, it links Wilmington, N.C., with Raleigh as it heads North to Richmond, Va., and beyond.

This isn't Montgomery's first trip with Bike and Build. In 2016, she rode with another crew from Charleston, S.C., to Santa Cruz, Calif., doing the same thing.

"It's pretty amazing," said Montgomery. "One of the best experiences is interacting with people who are excited about what you're doing, our mission and cause, and how we're doing it. They want to give us free food and places to stay. They want to invite us in their homes."

Montgomery said that everyone can relate to their cause, which, she said, is apolitical and because the housing market crash of 2008 left many people who never had to worry about where they may sleep that night without a roof over their heads.

"This crisis is evolving and shape shifting," she said. "We need to understand how to ameliorate it and understand who it impacts. There's always more to learn about it. One thing we have been talking about it is this book 'Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,' by Matthew Desmond. We've been discussing eviction in terms of the people who were impacted by the housing crisis and other aspects. Just think about people who have a medical issue who are put out on the street two weeks later. It's not all Section 8 housing folks and it's not all homeless people on the streets."

According to a new project from Princeton University, "The Eviction Lab," Charleston, S.C., has the highest number of eviction rates in the country at 16.5 percent in 2016, which amounts to 3,660, or roughly 10 households evicted every day. With the exclusion of Warren, Mich., the top 10 cities with the highest eviction rates in the country are all located in the South. Locally, Montgomery said that eviction rates, citing the website http://www.evic tionlabs.org, are higher in Brevard than the national average.

In 2016, Transylvania County had a 3.5 percent eviction rate, which amounted to 125 evictions, or 0.71 percent higher than the national average.

"It's overwhelming to think about it in my tiny town, but how many people do I know that have been evicted or people who I know who know people who have been evicted. It would be scary to think about in other countries," she said.

Accessibility to Section 8 housing in Brevard is another of Montgomery's concerns and the related plight of domestic abuse victims, which are mostly women. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the U.S, and one in three women have been victims of physical violence in their lifetime.

"I just learned that many shelters will not accept mothers with teenage boys over the age of 12, which makes things even more difficult for them," she said.

She said that during recent conversations with community members in Brevard she is picking up on a lot of "not in my backyard" and that certain parts of town are "bad neighborhoods."

"It's become an 'us vs. them' issue - people who can afford and those who can't," Montgomery said. "In all these mountain towns with second-home owners, it drives up the price of all this and makes it even more difficult to find housing. Young people in this town know that it's hard to find a place to rent in this town."

Montgomery grew up in a family that was in property management, so she knows her way around a saw and hammer. Her grandfather owns apartments, and her dad is a property manager, so in high school she was the maintenance girl.

"I learned how to do washer and dryer repairs and toilet repairs, painting and other minor fixes, and I've done remodels and renovations with friends. I learned by doing...trial and error a lot of times," she said "I really like carpentry because I like the process of starting with nothing and turning it into something. Painting is also great because you can kind of zone out and just paint. In some weird ways, painting can be good for me in that I am detail oriented."

The upcoming trip is fully supported, and each rider carries their essentials for a big day on the bike, but there is a van for emergencies and to carry their tool belts and boots.

They bike in all conditions – through rain and hail - and on her 2016 trip they rode to the top of Capulin, a volcano and national monument in New Mexico.

Montgomery crashed on the pavement heading down the mountain when she hit about 35 mph.

That shook her a bit – but she's tough.

When she's home in Brevard, she doesn't ride on the road except for pedaling the bike path to pour beer at Oskar Blues, but she does spend a good bit of time on her mountain bike and in her whitewater boat.

Nora Jane Montgomery

She first came to Brevard for a Wilderness First Responder course, and was hired as a whitewater instructor at Camp Carolina.

She is originally from Kentucky and earned her master's degree in Appalachian studies at Appalachian State. When she arrives home this fall, she'll be able to pick up her job pouring beer.

Each expedition member is required to raise $5,000, and that money goes directly to fund the local organizations that make volunteer days possible and to cover portions of the trip itself. Donations may be made in the name of affordable housing at http://www.classy.org/fundraiser/ 1267914.

 
 

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