Jason Osborne says fixing up this abandoned farmhouse on Sunset Road will give his family a place to live rent-free for a year. - Julia Moore

A real fixer-upper

An unemployed Medford couple are creating a home for themselves by fixing up an abandoned farmhouse built nearly a century ago along Sunset Road.

Jason Osborne and Racheal Bradley found themselves unemployed and unable to make their rent last spring when they discovered the old farmhouse, plagued by broken windows, graffiti and trash piles. They contacted the owner for permission to live rent-free for one year if they brought the house up to code.

Osborne and Bradley bought a $350 travel-trailer and moved on-site in May. The couple are trying to get electricity in the house up to par, then figure out other utilities.

"We're capable people willing to work, but there are just no jobs, and we can't commit to rent or a mortgage without an income," says Osborne.

The couple live on food stamps, unemployment checks and Craigslist freebies. Their children, a 12-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl, are spending the summer with their grandparents while Osborne and Bradley work on the house, hoping to get it livable before the school year begins in September.

"It's a longstanding tradition in our families to check out abandoned houses," Osborne says. "People think we're crazy, but this seemed like something we could make happen for us. All we want is to provide a home for our children. So this is our new reality."

With four cats and a multitude of houseplants crammed inside the travel-trailer, all the couple's other worldly possessions are scattered between a small storage shed and the large country kitchen of their new home.

A cage of parakeets lends a cheerful song to the property while a flop-eared dog inspects daily activity.

Each morning, Osborne and Bradley take a trip into Medford to use the restroom and shower at the YMCA, check email accounts and Craigslist for job prospects, and post progress on their house on their Facebook page (

Back home, the couple outline plans for their children's bedroom — which will include a mural of past school artwork — and water the houseplants lining a back walkway with melted ice from a small cooler.

"Electricity or not, it's home," Osborne says. "We're hoping to be living in the house in the next week. We don't know what'll happen after a year, but even if we get a year for making it livable, that's a year of rent."

Prior to its new tenants, the house has been a magnet for transients and other undesirable activities, neighbors say.

Osborne and Bradley's effort will not only provide a family with a needed home, but will remedy an eyesore, says neighbor Scott Morse.

Property owner Mike Walkup, who lives in Las Vegas, says neighbors had contacted him to thank him for letting Osborne and Bradley inhabit the property.

"I told them they could stay there and fix it up if they wanted to," Walkup says.

"I've gotten calls from neighbors there thanking me for allowing them to do this. They seem like really good people and they're willing to do the work."

While both Osborne and Bradley graduated from Abdill Career College as certified phlebotomists, they struggle to find work. Bradley volunteers at a local agency two days per week and scours online and newspaper ads for income opportunities multiple times each day.

With code requirements mandating a new electrical box, and a recent estimate calling for more than $1,500 in repairs, they know the finish line is a long way off.

But Osborne and Bradley, who have been homeless several times in the past four years, are optimistic they will prevail.

"We can live on very little. We've done that for a long time and we really don't need much," Bradley says.

"We just need to get the electric and the water going and we can figure out the rest. That's one thing about us. We've been through so much, but we always do manage to figure it out."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance reporter living in Medford. Email her at

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