Rescue home offer 'miracle'

OLIVIA CARVILLE
Last updated 05:00 17/12/2013
James Barber
DEAN KOZANIC/Fairfax NZ
KINDNESS OF A STRANGER: James Barber no longer has need to fear homelessness as an anonymous Christchurch businessman has decided to buy him a house.

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James Barber's home goes up for auction today, but a "white knight" has rescued the 77-year-old from homelessness.

An anonymous Christchurch businessman was so taken by Barber's plight that he is offering to buy him a house "to live out his days in peace".

"I didn't know there were people like this still about," Barber said.

"Miracles do happen, there is no doubt about it."

Barber is one of the last remaining residents of the Crossdale Courts retirement complex and his story was highlighted by The Press earlier this month.

The residents of the Upper Riccarton complex have been in legal battles since 2008 after the owner went bankrupt, fled to Australia and left the elderly folk at the hands of finance companies.

The mortgagees were not legally obligated to honour the residents' contracts, for which they paid the bankrupt owner between $40,000 and $80,000 to occupy the units until death.

Over the past five years, some of the residents have died, some are now in palliative care and some were evicted.

Barber is one of the last of the original residents and the widower found out his unit was up for auction while lying in a hospital bed earlier this month.

His pleas to the mortgagee to delay the sale until he had recovered from spinal surgery were ignored.

Today his unit will be auctioned, but Barber no longer needs to fear homelessness.

His lawyer, Dean Palmer, has been approached by a local businessman who has offered to buy Barber a townhouse in a Sydenham retirement village.

The "white knight" did not want to be identified and "politely declined" to speak to The Press, Palmer said.

"He wants to buy him another property so he can live out his days there." Through Palmer, the anonymous philanthropist said: "I was concerned for Jim, as were many others, and as I was in a position to be able to help him, I was very happy to do so." Barber was "completely speechless" when he heard about the offer.

"I don't know how to put it into words. I was overwhelmed. It was an absolutely tremendous, enormous thing to happen," he said.

"Thank you to this gentleman is not enough. I wish there were more words in the English language, but I just don't know them." The businessman's kindness has caused the retiree to "lose my cynicism".

Barber is expected to view his prospective new home before the auction today.

An online fundraising page that was set up by a Press reader to help Barber has also collected more than $3000 and the organiser plans to transfer the funds into his account this week.

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- The Press

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