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Our Home, Our Future

Series on Housing

Voices from the Salisbury Community about the housing needed  for a healthy, economically vibrant future

Brigitte Ruthman

In 1991, EMTs Jacquie Rice and Brigitte Ruthman trained and studied hard, passed Firefighter 1 as interior firefighters and gained membership in The Lakeville Hose Co. as the first two females in an organization with a rich tradition that began in 1905. 

In 2004 Brigitte was evicted from her Salisbury apartment without warning or cause while searching for a home buying opportunity and was forced to find alternative housing. “I had made offers on a couple of small homes, including one that had been gifted to the ambulance service, but my bids couldn’t compete with the second homeowners’ market,” she said. “I wanted to stay in town because of the extended families in the fire department and ambulance service. But affordability forced me to look farther afield.”

The eviction caused a brief experience with homelessness — a few days on the couch at the ambulance headquarters — before a neighbor offered their rental home. After purchasing land in Sandisfield, Mass., about 30 minutes from Salisbury, friends helped Brigitte raise a kit home. She moved in as the snow began to fly through the unfinished roof. 

“I had to resign from the ambulance service, because I couldn’t answer emergency medical calls. One of the firemen ripped up my resignation letter before I could submit it, so I’ve stayed on answering the few calls I can on mutual aid and serve as appeals chairman. I keep up dual Connecticut and Massachusetts certifications. As much as I was able to build the small farm I had  hoped for, it wasn’t in the town where I wanted to live and continue volunteering. It’s not the same here. The brother and sisterhood in Salisbury is unique.”

Before leaving town she spoke at a hearing sponsored by the Salisbury Association about the need for affordable housing.

“At the heart of a community are those who give back to it,” she said. “You can’t do that if you’re coming up on a Friday afternoon and leaving Sunday night. And It’s simply not possible for someone earning $50,000 to compete with a commodities broker or hedge fund manager who wants a weekend retreat when property goes up for sale. Rentals are a segue to home ownership. Investing in volunteers means investing in working class, local families who can afford to live here.”

With an average home sale price between Oct.1, 2018, and Oct. 1, 2020, of $778,750, who will be able to live in Salisbury? What does it mean for the future of our town? 

 

Mary Close Oppenheimer is a local artist who has been part of the Lakeville/Salisbury community for 30 years.

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