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That sinking feeling

DUNBAR, W.Va. -- Two weeks ago, Mike Higginbotham's mother died. Last Thursday, his wife, Bridgett, was laid off from her job with a local temporary agency.

On Friday, the couple's Dunbar home was condemned by city officials after a large sinkhole opened beneath the foundation.

The Higginbothams' landlord won't be repairing the damage. "It's probably going to cost more to fix it than the house is worth," Mike said.

Mike and Bridgett Higginbotham were told they would have to move out of the dangerous structure immediately.

Mike understands that the city had to condemn the house. He understands that the landlord can't afford to fix it. But he and Bridgett don't know where they're going to move with their four children.

"If it was just me and my husband, I wouldn't care," Bridgett said. "But we've got kids."

Mike said he has worked since he was 15 years old. Last year he had to admit defeat and apply for disability, the result of a 35-foot fall that smashed his leg and damaged his back in 1993. The degenerative damage from the fall finally caught up with him.

He still works when he can, but he has been serving as a stay-at-home dad to his two sons, who are 1 and 4. Their two daughters are in school.

"We're trying to stay in the Dunbar area so I can keep the kids in school," he said.

But Mike and Bridgett aren't sure where they're going to move. They have made the rounds of local social service agencies, but so far have not been able to find anyone who can help.

"I sold my living room furniture [Monday] night just to get enough money for a hotel room," Mike said. "We're trying to come up with a plan, but we keep hitting walls."

Mike said they can probably scrape up enough money for two more days at a hotel. He said his landlord has agreed to return the couple's security deposit, giving them a little more money to start over.

"After that runs out, I don't know what we'll do," he said.

Mike said his landlord is trying to help but has no vacancies. He said the house next door, owned by a nearby church, is vacant, but he hasn't been able to get in touch with church officials to ask if he could rent the home.

Mike and Bridgett are trying to get in touch with the American Red Cross to see if it can put the family up temporarily. In the meantime, he is trying to pack the family's belongings and figure out where to put them.

Mike said he has been in tight spots before and always found a way out. He's hoping something will turn up again.

"It just hit us all after Christmas," he said. "I can't get my head around it."

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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