Betty Young smiles as she looks at the debris at her feet. Amid the bits of wood and nails that were once part of her home, Young says she is lucky.
"I'm elated. I'm just standing here in awe," said Young, 48, as workers began a near-total remodeling of the small two-bedroom cottage she nearly lost two years ago.
With the help of volunteers who learned about Young's plight through ABC-TV's "PrimeTime Live," she is getting a second chance.
Young's plight began in 1991, when she tried to refinance and remodel the $65,000 home she bought from a friend in 1985. Young secured a loan through Tim Barnett, a loan broker who helped coordinate the renovations. Barnett has been named in lawsuits by about 30 former clients in the Los Angeles area who say they have been defrauded.
Young moved out of her house to await construction. But the renovations never took place, and Young, a single mother who was working two jobs to support her six children, was left with a mess.
"A crew came over that started taking the windows down and then they never came back to fix it," she said.
"There were lots of times I couldn't really pay my rent. I couldn't buy school clothes for the kids. They really missed out on a lot of stuff because of this."
Young was spending nearly $1,100 a month in rent, in addition to the $866 a month on her refinanced mortgage. The situation deteriorated until several local television stations broadcast her story.
Among those who have come to Young's aid are Bob Crizer, a general contractor, and Tom Brajkovick, an architect. Both men were at Young's house in the 11000 block of Slater Avenue when a crew began tearing most of it down earlier this month.
"This will hopefully set an example," Brajkovick said. "The value of it will be the exposure, so that other people will take notice and do similar work."
He and Crizer, who work in San Luis Obispo, shrugged when asked about their frequent trips to Los Angeles to ensure quick city approval of the building plans. It was just part of getting the job done, they said.
The new house will have a few changes, including an additional bedroom and bathroom, Brajkovick said. A crew is expected to lay the foundation this week. The frame of the house is expected to be completed over three days next month with the help of 30 workers from more than a dozen groups, including Habitat for Humanity.
Young's family and neighbors walked by the house in disbelief.
Kevy Johnson pulled up in a truck to deliver water to a second, smaller house at the back of the lot. Johnson has been delivering water to the address for nearly a year. "It's about time!" he yelled out to Young.
"I never really thought it was going to happen," said Young's 21-year-old daughter, Pat, who lives in the rear house. "Friends always come by and ask: 'When are they going to tear your mom's house down?' It's been very stressful for all of us."
Her mother said there have been moments when moving back into her home has seemed nearly impossible.
But Young regains her smile: "Christmas will be in this house."