PARKERSBURG, W.Va.--After years of dealing with homelessness, Mary Ann McClain and Dean Marsh now have a place to call home.
The two have spent the past six years building a houseboat, using every penny they had on materials. Their houseboat is named the Turtleback.
"I've always wanted to be like a turtle and have my house on my back ... that's why we named it the Turtleback," McClain said. "It's neat that we get to take our house everywhere we go.
"I just wanted to own something. We only had about $350 a month to work with so it took a while to get this project finished. We bought walls one month and windows the next."
McClain, 52, and Marsh, 59, are from Front Royal, Va. The two worked on the project there, acquiring most of the building material from Lowe's and Home Depot as well as from neighbors and friends.
"We did what we could," McClain said. "We jerry-rigged a few things together and negotiated deals with retailers. It's not perfect but this whole experience has been great, and we've definitely learned a lot."
Marsh said it was important to use lightweight materials when possible. In addition, he said the walls needed to be insulated well in order to stay warm when temperatures drop.
"We didn't want to sit too heavy," Marsh said. "The walls are six inches thick and the houseboat itself is actually built better than most homes today."
The biggest and most expensive endeavor was to coal tar, or sealcoat, the bottom of the boat.
"We had to save up for a couple years to have the coal tar applied to the bottom," McClain said.
The couple estimate they have put around $35,000 into their houseboat, a cost they claim was worth it.
"It feels great to walk in here and have a place to sit and lay down ... it's warm and this is home," McClain said.
The houseboat does not have electricity or running water. There's no television or microwave.
"We do have a small battery-operated radio we turn on every now and then," McClain said. "We also have a marine radio so we can communicate with other boaters on the waterways."
The houseboat features a main living area, a kitchenette, bunks and a little pad for their dog, Lucy.