82 year old man battles with FEMA after losing home in Hurricane Irma
BRADLEY COUNTY, Tenn. —
Months after Hurricane Irma swept through Florida, Arch Howard is still waiting on assistance from the federal government to rebuild his life.
Howard was living in The Good Samaritan Village in Kissimmee, Florida when Irma barreled in.
"It was just so nice, so nice. I liked it so much," Howard tells NewsChannel 9.
Despite his affection for the retirement community he called home and for his friends who lived there with him, Howard says he'll never return to the sunshine state.
"I love Florida but I couldn't go back," he says.
The memories of the flood waters and those affected are too much for Howard to handle.
"I don't want to go down there and see what happened to these people that I knew. It hurts so much," Howard tells NewsChannel 9.
While he focuses on the well being of his friends, Howard's family cares for his affairs.
The 82 year old currently resides with his daughter Diane Lawson in Cleveland, TN.
3 weeks after the Irma hit, Diane drove down to Kissimmee to pick up her father and salvage what she could.
"To see 82 years of somebody's life just sitting there in that condition," Lawson says.
The day she packed up what was left of her father's life, Diane registered him for FEMA disaster assistance.
Lawson says she first heard from the FEMA inspector after her and her father were already back in Cleveland.
Over the phone, the contracted inspector asked Diane if she could "be in Florida at 8 AM" the next day for him to inspect the home.
Diane told the man that she was unable to make that happen and shortly thereafter she received a letter from FEMA stating that her father's application for disaster assistance had been denied on account of her "voluntary withdrawal" from the system.
"It's so maddening the way they're treating us," Howard says of FEMA's handling of the recovery.
Two weeks later, Diane was able to get a second inspector to asses her fathers home.
"We get a phone call from that inspector saying there's yellow tape and stickers all over the front door," Diane says that inspector refused to go inside the mold ridden home but when she logged into her father's FEMA account the next day she saw a second denial.
Diane showed us the denial letter from FEMA calling the home "safe to occupy."
Diane also showed NewsChannel 9 a copy of a letter from The Good Samaritan Village which states that flood water resulted in "unsafe living conditions."
Diane has now filed appeals with FEMA on her father's behalf hoping for a little assistance as he rebuilds his life at the age of 82.