Deep roots keep Claiborne County resident anchored after devastating fire

Allen Hunter tries to look for the positive in everything, no matter how hard the circumstances.

Hunter, 51, currently lives in a one-bedroom home in Speedwell, Tenn. that was built with funding from the Tennessee Housing Development Agency’s HOME grant program.

But his journey to having a new home wasn’t an easy one, in fact, it was far from it.

Hunter had been battling health issues – including cancer and heart problems – when his 136-year old home burnt to the ground. For the next year, he lived in a shed located on his property. He only had a small heater, no plumbing and no insulation.

His luck finally began to change when he found out about the HOME Program grant that East Tennessee nonprofit Tennessee Community Action Agency received from THDA.

“My whole life I’ve never asked anyone for anything,” Hunter said. “I’m the type of person that always gives to others, so it killed me to have to accept help. But sometimes you’ve got to accept help, even if it makes you feel bad.

“But if this program wasn’t around, I would still be living in the shed. What else could I do?”

Hunter said he was beyond excited when he was able to finally move out of his temporary dwelling in the shed and into his new home.

“I was tickled,” Hunter said. “I was really pleased. The Lord watched over me.”

Hunter said he was also overwhelmed by the support of his community, where his family has lived since it was settled in the late 18th century.

“This is all stuff that the community has helped me with,” Hunter said. “I lost everything. I’ve lived here my whole life, my family has lived her their whole life, so it’s like one big family. I’ve always stuck to myself, and I just couldn’t believe the people that showed up to help.”

Despite the hardships he faced getting into his new home, Hunter said he still chooses to keep a positive outlook on his situation and is thankful for the good things that have happened to him the aftermath of the fire.

“Anytime that you can get up out of bed and thank the Lord, you’re in a good situation. A lot of people don’t think about the good things, they want to dwell on the bad things,” Hunter said. “Like the old saying goes, you can get busy living or get busy dying. Life has been hard on me, but there’s someone out there that always has it worse. So I try to just look at the good things.”

Photos by Wes Bunch.