Porter Family Housing Need
Our house was damaged by Irma in Orlando just recently. Water seeped in through the roof and damaged walls and floors. Extensive damage, ceiling caved in two different rooms. Drywall crumbling, insulation soaked, floors warping and breaking. Power was off for 7 days which is just about death in Florida heat. Kids couldn't sleep. Then, when the waterlogged drywall started incubating mold in the dark heat, we knew it wasn't safe for anybody.
Originally, our landlord came out assuring he'd be around to do the necessary repairs. Three days later, after no communication, I called him up. He was busy with another property, but informed us we should take our dogs to the pound, find somewhere else to stay and it'd be at least a week before he could come out to do anything. We have been here for 9 years. 9 YEARS.
I've turned to freelancing after losing my job of 8 years, while my wife contracts as a courier to help pay our basic needs. We work.
So, we've been staying in hotels ever since, eating up the little we had managed to save, having to travel an hour back and forth to the house to take care of the dogs and do what we could to clear and clean the property. The power came on after a week, but no one really wants to be here. It broke my heart when my son told me that he didn't want to go into his house anymore. The house is broken, he signed. It's not safe. The house is broken.
Honestly, we're at a loss. We're not sure if we should fix the place up ourselves? Wait longer until we run out of money? Start looking elsewhere?
What we do know is our "rainy day" fund has been taken by a very rainy day. Anything can help. We just want a safe place for our kids to call home.
UPDATE: As suggested, I'm updating the story with some pertinent info for clarity's sake. Perhaps the addition of the burglary may have confused some as to what our goals are. That is being dealt with separately through the police.
1. My name is Tony Porter.
2. I live in Orlando, Florida with my wife and four children.
3. Myself and my family are the recipients of any funds raised here.
4. The funds raised here will be used specifically for house repair and renovation from storm damage to the property in which we live.
5. The funds are being withdrawn directly to our bank, and we are paying our contractors directly from there, as well as purchasing supplies for the restoration project.
Thanks again, everyone!
We've been robbed! A couple who was part of the renovation team robbed us while they worked on the property. We noticed misplaced things (tools mostly) earlier but chalked it up to all the work being done all over the site. About a week ago we noticed one of two brand new TV's we had bought months ago (even before the storm) still in boxes, awaiting house renovations to complete. We then heard from someone that this couple had a history of stealing. Without direct evidence or wanting to react to a rumor, we simply asked them to leave the premises and not to return. The next day we noticed the kids game system was missing, the contractor's nail gun was missing...how far would this go? All my tools are gone, air compressor, pressure washer, video surveillance system, new floor tiles... it just kept coming, and I'm sure we'll find more as time goes on. We were willing to just drop it and count it as a warning to be more careful, but stealing from kids directly is pretty dang low. Brand new game system we promised the kids we'd setup once the house was finished just sitting in an unmarked box. At a loss for words.
We fell for it, we listened to their story and wanted to help. They had lost their house in the storm and were living in their truck doing odd jobs to get back on their feet. They had kids across town they could never even visit because the tires on their truck were threadbare. Since we were not using the house yet we allowed them access to our showers, our laundry during their stay. We even threw extra work at them and had them work on the vehicles. My car needed a timing belt replacement and they took the job. They left the work unfinished and we paid them for the job a day before it was to be "completed". That day never came. The repair estimate has now doubled and the fate of the car is in limbo.
I filed a police report yesterday. I don't know what can be done. I waver between being vengeful and feeling stupid. The officer let me know that there is only so much that can be done in cases like this.
So now we're squeaking along at a snails pace with only one contractor on the premises. We moved back because the hotel was just too costly. The project is over budget, over time, and is causing a lot of grief the longer it goes unfinished.
So what has been finished? Well, through the generosity of some amazing people here we have a brand new roof. We've got about 80% of the sub-floors done and got a good start on the walls and electrical. All is not lost, but it has been set back quite a bit, and keeping spirits high has been tough. I wrote before how I didn't want to setup this platform because it magnifies the negative. There's also no point in sugarcoating anything. Maybe we tried to stretch the budget too far. Maybe we should have been more formal with the workers. Maybe we should have not even attempted to restore this place.
Final note... We even bought this couple a set of new tires so they didn't have to be stuck there and could visit their family, get around as needed, right? Know why? Back when we first moved to Florida, only one child at the time, we gave away everything we owned and bought a van to drive across the country to put me in school. We visited a church really only based on proximity to our house in an attempt to get "plugged-in". We met a couple who noticed our vans tires were bald, threadbare, and about to blow. They took us to get brand new tires and stocked our fridge full of food. I've experienced generosity, but nothing this direct, nothing this....tangible? They said, "God has been good to us. Maybe you'll do the same for someone in the future." And we have, we've done it for a good amount of people we've crossed paths with. Sometimes Amber doesn't even tell me. Hey, what is this extra charge? Oh I took this person on a shopping trip. Hey this person needed to get back home and needed a new tire, or they would need some car repair. Something, anything! Be open to how you can help! Do something crazy for somebody! I'm praying we'll get back to helping when needed and that the sourness will have rinsed away. I hope the couple who wronged us gets help, straightens up, and reunites with their family.
I also hope we get this house thing fixed.
By today the roof should be back to new. I really hope this is true. We've been going through "alternate" routes to buy supplies cheaply (but not too cheap!) to get everything repaired within the budget we set forth. This has been the most frustrating aspect of it all. If I went down to Home Depot and just bought everything we needed, we'd have it here and the house would have been done in a matter of weeks or much less. Waiting for deals, hunting for bargains has proved unsustainable. That is, the longer we wait for something, the longer the house doesn't get repaired. The longer the house doesn't get repaired, the more we have to stay in hotels. Notching out a base of $350 a week to stay there plus other out of house living expenses is killing any savings we were attempting to procure. We realized we have to up the budget and buy more supplies upfront to hasten the process. Which brings me to...
We finally made a withdrawal from this fund! It's currently going into all the shingles, other supplies, and labor to get it done. They are currently stomping around right now, and should see some progress mid-day. I'll post a picture when it's done!
We also had a visit from FEMA. The gentleman who came out was very accommodating, very interested in our story. He said... we're one of the worst off he's seen in all the houses he's inspected in Florida. The good news is FEMA "should" get on the ball and send us money for further repairs and to help compensate for our out-of-house expenses. We'll see. He warned that it could be some time given how backed up they are.
I don't want to get the gentleman in trouble, but he stated he was a former enlisted officer, current contractor, and he'd be in the area for another week or so and if we needed anymore help he'd come by. I know he's not supposed to do that, so it's unlikely we'll call on him but it was very heartwarming to receive such an offer.
Oh and the county finally came out and cleared the street from everyone's tree damage which we were instructed to set on the side of the road. What is this, 6 weeks now? I'm not complaining, I know there is still a ton of storm cleanup everywhere to do. I'm just glad all the clutter is gone. Felt like driving through a warzone, each house fortified by makeshift, woodland bunkers.
On the other hand, that would have made for some gnarly household vs household paintball action.
One very cool thing is the contractors are down for doing some extra work on the floorplan. That is to say, we have a 3bd 2ba house with 4 kids. If you do the math, and I know I have, even fully restored it's a bit small for us. So we're getting them to modify things to get us at least one more room for not too much more of the same budget.
Some have asked, why do you live in such a small, modest house so far away from the city? Well one, it's away from the city. Two, it affords us land, privacy, and a good amount of freedom. Of course we are also last on the list for county services of any kind... Which reminds me...
Still no word from FEMA. I've been checking my status, updating my account with all the hotels and pertinent receipts we've been amassing. Again, I'm not counting on them or anyone else to get us out of this. We could still be denied for one reason or another, who knows? But it could help out. We're trying to keep costs of everything low, but with construction, that will be unsustainable. I think they will work with us though. And the landlord (while unable to help out financially) is of course not charging us anything and is stopping by and calling regularly for updates.
This week felt a little stagnant, but the progress in the last few days is promising. Gotta start somewhere, right?
Landlord apologized for not getting back to us. I understand he's got a lot of other properties to work on, and maybe he didn't understand how serious the situation had gotten. That doesn't let him off from his responsibilities, but we ultimately need to work with him to come to a good resolution.
What am I talking about?
He came over a few days ago and inspected the damage. Did a check inside as well and I could see him adding up the dollars. He also saw parts of the house that he knew he should have repaired in the past few years and I think it took him aback. He would not have enough resources to repair it anytime soon and said "he'd get back to me" which means...which really means nothing.
We've not been just sitting around, either. We have applied to FEMA (no response yet) and we have been talking to local contractors to give us an assessment on the repairs but no one would ever come out. Finally a team referenced by a neighbor stopped by and were very excited to get to work on it, threw out a ballpark figure on what they would need for labor and supplies. $2000 - $3000 for the roof, and $8000 to $10000 for the rest of the house. Maybe do whole thing for $11000. This is half what the landlord was thinking it'd be and I think is a doable number.
He also wants to sell the place to us, so that value and the amount we've paid for rent over the years will be taken into consideration after it's been renovated. This puts the ball back in our court!
When I set up the fundraiser here, I didn't know what to put for a target. We guessed $10k and figured whatever comes is great. Maybe it'd be for repairs, maybe it would be relocation, who knows? Funny after all this time that is about what we'll need to finish this. Though, I believe we'll be able to do it in stages. Fix the roof, repair any integrity issues and then start work inside. This is our goal and I'm about to call the contractor and setup a date to begin work on the roof.
I want to say thanks to everyone who has given, shared, prayed, or thought happy thoughts for us. There's enough here to get started on repairs AND it won't go to waste as we are seriously considering buying the place after all is said and done or at least will get it paid back in rent should we decide to up and leave.
Yeah, we'll get it all in writing. ;)