Harvey evacuees in Plano struggle to find permanent home

It's been nearly two months since hurricane Harvey pummeled the Houston area, and some evacuees who came to North Texas are finding life is anything but back to normal.

A retired couple called North Texas home for decades. The husband is a retired Dallas police officer but ended up in a Houston suburb to get their adult son medical treatment. Little did they know that they'd end up right back in North Texas, but under very different circumstances.

67-year-old Joann Breitling and her 72-year-old husband Samuel, a retired DPD officer who worked the streets for 33 years, are staying in Plano with their 34-year-old son Matthew, who has Down syndrome, and their dog Sadie. They have been making do at an extended stay hotel room since Sept. 19.

“There are so many natural disasters occurring. I think people can't keep up,” Joann said. “And it's almost like we've become forgotten.”

The family was rescued by boat from their Kingwood neighborhood in northeast Houston after a controlled release dumped five feet of water in the house they rented from their daughter. They did not have flood insurance, and it caused plenty of trauma for the couple married 48 years and parents to seven children.

“The hardest thing is getting over the loss of what we had: my mother's albums, pictures, everything,” said Samuel while fighting back tears.

“We have lived our wedding vows literally word for word,” Joann said. “I think we are in the ‘for worse’ part right now.”

Joann says they're living on the edge not knowing if FEMA will renew their housing request every two weeks. So far, they’ve had no luck with a more permanent solution.

“We don't know where we will be able to afford to live,” Joann said. “And that's a very scary thing at our age.”

Matthew passes the time by drawing pictures of the home they once loved.

“The most hurtful thing is he thinks we are going home,” Joann said.

FEMA says the Breitlings might qualify for a small business administration loan, a low-interest disaster loan for homeowners and renters. But Joann says even if the Kingwood house is repaired, the cost of repaying the loan is more than her family can afford.

Her daughters are helping as much as they can. But even that isn't enough to insulate them from the blow of Harvey's devastating punch.

A FEMA spokesperson says the families who do not qualify for an SBA loan are referred back to FEMA for possible grant assistance, but he says those families will not be made whole.

And there are many others like the Breitlings. In Plano alone, the city says it has about 60 Harvey evacuees still living in hotels through FEMA’s temporary shelter assistance program.

GoFundMe Link: https://www.gofundme.com/helpfloodfamily

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