Quadriplegic still fighting to keep his Naples home after failed mediation

Phil McKee, a quadriplegic injured in a water skiing accident decades ago, lives with his wife and two kids at his home in North Naples on Friday, Dec. 10, 2010. McKee's house is modified and fixed up so he is able to continue to live there and has for about 20 years. Although he is still trying to negotiate with Bank of America, his home is being foreclosed on. Greg Kahn/Staff

Photo by GREG KAHN

Phil McKee, a quadriplegic injured in a water skiing accident decades ago, lives with his wife and two kids at his home in North Naples on Friday, Dec. 10, 2010. McKee's house is modified and fixed up so he is able to continue to live there and has for about 20 years. Although he is still trying to negotiate with Bank of America, his home is being foreclosed on. Greg Kahn/Staff

Quadriplegic Phil McKee lost his main source of income — stock dividends that came from his inheritance — when the stock market collapsed. Bank of America foreclosed on his Naples home last year. On Aug. 29, McKee attempted mediation with the bank.

— After a year, Phil McKee is near the end of the line.

The 42-year-old unemployed quadriplegic said he has tried everything he can to save his home.

But his attempts have been futile.

McKee lost his main source of income — stock dividends that came from his inheritance — when the stock market collapsed. Unable to modify his home loan, McKee stopped paying Bank of America the monthly mortgage payment. The bank foreclosed on his Naples home last year.

Since then, McKee, his wife and their two young sons have stayed in the house, which is modified to accommodate McKee's wheelchair and disability. Their hope has been to negotiate a lower mortgage or sell a piece of vacant land he bought a decade ago, which would allow them to pay off most of the loan. Last year, a Bonita Springs firm offered to help him market the lot, and the company received several calls asking for the location and price. However, nothing panned out.

On Aug. 29, McKee attempted mediation with the bank. It refused to lower payments but gave him an option to reinstate the loan. That requires McKee to pay back the total past due balance, which amounts to about $26,000.

That's money he doesn't have.

"We are living off the $445 a month from Social Security and what little my wife makes cleaning homes," McKee said. "I wish we had that money."

Without reinstatement, the bank will put his home on the auction block.

"They didn't give us a time frame,'' McKee said. "We're in waiting mode. My guess is that it's very close, maybe within a month or two."

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The family is preparing for the worst. McKee plans to check into a state-run assisted living facility while his wife, Barbara, and their two sons, Sebastian, 5, and Alec, 3, will move to her sister's house in Connecticut if their home is lost. They will separate because the Connecticut two-story house, which has all the bedrooms on the second floor, won't accommodate McKee.

"Of course, that's not what we want to do," McKee said. "We want to stay. Our family would be broken up. Our oldest already started school. It's hard."

Last year, the Daily News ran an article about McKee's financial struggles. McKee said the story garnered about $2,000 in donations, which he used to pay utilities. The church he attends also collected some donations after the story, but that dried up.

McKee said the money problems have created a strain for his family.

"When you can't support your family, it doesn't make you feel like much of a man," McKee said. "I'm reminded of that quite often. It has put a considerable strain on our relationship."

Currently, McKee is looking for work doing what he can, considering his disability. He applied for jobs that allow him to work on the phone, such as customer service and telemarketing positions. He also has approached stores to be their door greeters. Barbara McKee cleans a couple houses a month, and continues to search for more work.

"We have two kids," Barbara McKee said. "We have them to feed. Phil doesn't have a job, and I have only a few houses. We are willing to do whatever we can find."

Without work and enough income, the McKees expect a somber Christmas.

"When you bring children into the world, you're supposed to be responsible enough to offer them certain things during Christmas," he said. "There is a lot of anxiety of the unknown. I don't want to tell them that Santa forgot their house this year."

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