Thousands still recovering from Hurricane Ike

July 30, 2011 4:17:56 PM PDT
It's been almost three years since Hurricane Ike hit, and thousands of homeowners are still struggling to recover. The city received more than 2,300 applications for housing assistance, and they only have the money to help 242 of those families.

"When it rains, that water comes from here and runs down that bathroom wall," Vertie Fobbs said.

Fobbs is 81 years old. Her Sunnyside home was left battered by Hurricane Ike three years ago.

She said has lived there for 46 years and doesn't want to move. She hired a contractor who took her money and left a mess. So, she turned to the city of Houston for help.

The problem is that she's not alone. One of her friends is in the same boat, with walls caked with mold from Hurricane Ike water damage.

There are more than 2,300 stories we could tell from people who have applied to the city for assistance, but there's not enough money to help them all.

"We are working as fast as we can," said Marc Eichenbaum with the city's Housing and Community Development office.

Eichenbaum says only one third of people who applied for assistance are eligible for the money. Once this round of cash runs out, there should be more coming from the federal government.

But when? No one knows.

"We're waiting for that money to come in to Houston, but, to date, we haven't received it and we don't know when we'll ever receive it," Eichenbaum said.

The city acknowledges it has taken too long to get money to those in need, but says it has reviewed more than 700 applications. Right now, there are between 20 and 30 homes under construction, so officials said things are finally moving along.

The city, along with the Texas Organizing Project, is reaching out in the meantime, using workshops to educate homeowners about why their applications might be denied and where they stand on that list of 2,300 names.

Officials said applications for assistance are denied if -- for example -- a homeowner's titles or deeds aren't in their name or if they've received benefits from FEMA, because that would be considered doubling up on assistance.

"We're hoping that this will make the process easier and better for the community," Anita Robinson with the Texas Organizing Project said.

Meanwhile, residents in Ike-damaged homes are waiting for relief, practically holding their breath through this hurricane season.

"What we don't want to happen is another hurricane come and, because they've been waiting for three years, more damage occurs," Houston Councilmember Wanda Adams said.

Fobbs said she just hopes her house doesn't crumble, before her number comes up.

"I don't know when they'll get to me," she said. "But I need some plumbing right now."

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