Neighbors in Gloucester Township, New Jersey, are working hard to keep their beloved neighbor Lamar Harris from losing the home he has lived in his entire life.
Harris, 39, is in danger of being evicted from the home that he used to share with his father, who died suddenly in 2015.
Harris is mentally disabled, with the cognitive ability of a preteen. He cannot drive and has limited reading abilities, but has always been a helpful, generous member of his Cherry Circle neighborhood.
“He takes out people’s trash on Mondays. He brings the empty trash cans back in,” neighbor Michelle Bradbury told WCAU. “If you are on vacation he will get your newspaper. He’ll get your mail.”
Harris is proud to be known by his nickname, the “Mayor of Cherry Circle.” He has lived in the same home his entire life, though he now lives there alone because his entire family is dead.
“His life has been full of tragedy,” neighbor Terri Fretz wrote on a GoFundMe campaign she set up on Harris’ behalf.
“His mother died when he was 8 years old. His grandmother died when he was 12 years old. Lamar lived with his father and brother until the sudden death of his father in 2015. The very next year, his brother also suddenly died leaving Lamar alone.”
Fretz organized the fundraiser in order to help Harris come up with the $50,000 dollars that he owes in property taxes, which have not been paid since his father’s death.
“As a result of the death of his family members, his reading deficits, and his inability to understand finances, he has fallen behind in his property taxes,” Fretz explained. “They have not been paid since his father died in 2015. Gloucester Township has filed a lien for back property taxes and Lamar is in imminent danger of losing his home.”
With the Aug. 5 eviction deadline quickly approaching, neighbors worked fast and furiously to try and save Harris’ home.
“Everyone says somebody has to help him,” Fretz told WCAU. “So I’m somebody. We’re all somebody.”
Fretz said that Lamar works hard around the neighborhood, cutting lawns and helping people with their trash.
Neighbors had also helping Lamar manage his affairs over the years, believing his finances were in order, and were shocked to learn about the debt.
“We didn’t even think about it,” Fretz told Gloucester Township NJ Patch. “We helped him fix up his home. We have all his bills set up to be paid, and we were helping him with his bank account. But we never thought about the taxes.”
In addition to raising money, the neighbors have been working to obtain an attorney who can advocate for Harris’ current and future needs, such as proving to the state that he has the means to pay property taxes in the future.
As of Aug. 3, more than $60,000 had been donated to Lamar’s campaign.
“This is the only life Lamar knows,” Fretz wrote. “We, his neighbors, all agree he would not be able to function anywhere else. There is no place like home.”
While Harris does not really understand the specifics of his financial situation, he does understand the heart of the matter.
“They love me and they are trying to help me,” he told WCAU.
According to Patch, the Gloucester Township mayor has gotten involved in Harris’ case, stating in part, “We will continue to research this matter to ensure the proper care of Mr. Harris.”
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