Mr. White Is Alright: An Elderly And Disabled Veteran Recovers From Tropical Storm Imelda

Disaster Relief & Emergency Services

A disabled Texas Veteran hit by Tropical Storm Imelda finds new hope through Disaster Case Management.

From Hurricane Harvey in Texas to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, Endeavors has been providing Disaster Case Management services to thousands of natural disaster survivors since 2012. We know that disasters hit everyone differently, which is why we tailor our recovery plans to the individual and their needs. 

Last year, we met a disabled Veteran struggling to rebuild his home and his life after being hit by not one, not two, but three severe storms. This is his story. 

A Disabled Veteran Living in Dangerous Conditions

In Texas, Mr. White was an elderly disabled Veteran whose home had sustained severe damage from multiple disasters: Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Tropical Storm Imelda in 2019, and Severe Winter Storm Uri in 2021. A huge chunk of his floor had fallen through, and what remained was so unstable and rocky, he was afraid to walk across his house with his walker. To make matters worse, Mr. White’s plumbing had burst in the winter, and he didn’t have the financial means to repair it. 

Resource Coordinator Annie Derry has been working to assist Mr. White since 2021. “This is a disabled Veteran who has served us,” she recalls. “He was living in a situation you would not believe.” 

Because of his low-income status, Mr. White was forced to band-aid the plumbing problem by turning the water on and off at the shutoff valve outside the house. However, accessing the valve was a nearly Herculean effort. He had a walker and no ramp, and so every day he crawled down the steps of his house to go outside, turn his water on at the source, catch the water in a bucket, and then crawl back up the steps to his home. 

Derry was certain she could help Mr. White recover from the storm damage, but the repair process has not been without its challenges.

A Surprising Legal Obstacle 

Unfortunately, Mr. White’s recovery story came with a surprising plot twist. What held up Mr. White’s hurricane recovery process was not lack of funding or resources, but paperwork. A lawyer had previously advised Mr. White to list his heirs on the deed to his house; he listed eight siblings and family members on the deed, not knowing that the State would then require him to secure their collective consent for future decisions regarding the property. 

“We’ve run into this issue before,” says Derry, “as well as other issues with deeds, even to the point where you have a widow or widower who can’t have repairs done to the home because the deceased spouse is still listed on the deed. They still have to go to the courthouse, register the death certificate, and get that person taken off of the deed.”

Many of our clients at Endeavors are elderly and disabled, and navigating the complex legalities of disaster recovery assistance can be an immense challenge. Endeavors Case Managers like Derry have years of experience helping disaster survivors collect and submit all the necessary paperwork for permits and recovery assistance. But in this case, Derry went a step further and helped Mr. White begin the long process of obtaining written consent for the home repairs from all eight of his heirs. 

“At first he thought he wasn’t gonna be able to do anything,” Derry remembers. Mr. White thought that was the end of the line—he’d had to continue living in his derelict house, or face displacement. But Derry refused to accept that Mr. White’s home could not be repaired, and she acted as his advocate and his cheerleader from day one. 

A Dedicated Advocate 

Derry spent hours tracking down contact information for Mr. White’s heirs, writing letters to each of them, and mailing out the paperwork for consent. “We got four responses. And then I was able to find the obituary for one of the heirs and submit that.” 

Slowly but surely, they received enough consent to take care of the smaller but no less essential repairs on the home. 

“[At Endeavors,] we don’t see people as a number or as a job done,” Derry explains. “I try to think: What would I want someone to do for my great grandmother or my mother or brother or sister? And so it’s not like I’m working for an unknown because I put my parents or my family member in that situation and say, This is what I would want the case manager to do for my family member.”

Derry obtained a Lowe’s Reconstruction Grant through the National VOAD to purchase supplies and partnered with Samaritan’s Purse and Hope Disaster Recovery to stabilize the flooring inside, repair the walls and countertops, remove debris inside the home and in the yard, and have a handicap ramp built for him. When she told Hope Disaster Recovery that Mr. White was a disabled Veteran, they donated further supplies and labor to fix his plumbing problems. After all the repairs were done, the home was completely revived with fresh caulk and paint. 

“We were even able to get all the caulking and everything done to the outside,” Derry said. “We replaced some of the wood on the outside, and then the volunteers painted it. So it doesn’t look anything like it did before. Most importantly, he’s able to walk through his home without fear falling through the floor.”

Mr. White was overcome, and he told Derry, “If you knew where I was living and you drove by, you would miss it now because it looks like a new house.”

A Disaster Survivor on the Road to Recovery

Even though Endeavors’ contract for Imelda recovery has come to an end, Mr. White’s story is not over. Derry continues to work with the Texas General Land Office, who has the funds to help us complete Mr. White’s home repairs. Mr. White gave his consent for Derry to continue advocating for him, to speak on his behalf, and to submit documents for his case. She also continues to reach out to the remaining three heirs who need to consent to the final repairs.

“Our mission is to make sure that [the client is] safe, secure and in sanitary conditions,” shares Derry. “We could not in good faith walk away from them when that’s not the situation in which they’re living.”

She remembers what Mr. White said to her after his plumbing was fixed and the safety ramp installed in his home. “He said to me, I thank God for Endeavors, because if they had not come to my rescue, I don’t know where I would be.”

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