Volunteers Step in to Repair San Benito Woman’s Home

6 years 8 months 3 weeks ago Wednesday, July 19 2017 Jul 19, 2017 July 19, 2017 9:19 PM July 19, 2017 in News

BROWNSVILLE – Several community members of San Benito are volunteering to repair an elderly woman’s home.

They found out about the conditions Felicita Rivas and her family had been living in. The family had a leaky toilet and their floor was missing parts.

A big section of their roof had also caved in.
"I'm happy now, because I'll have my little house with the things I need. That way if God takes me one day, at least I have this home for my grandchildren," Rivas said.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS showed pictures of what Rivas's home looked like to Cameron and Willacy Counties Community Projects, Inc. Executive Director Amalia Garza.

Garza said that bout three years ago, the Department of Energy cut funding through the Health and Human Services for weatherization home projects.

She said local organizations tapped into those funds to help people make people’s homes more energy efficient. It helped them save money in the long run and made them safer.

Although there's no money for that program, Garza said Rivas wouldn’t qualify if she applied.

"It's got to be energy efficient by the time they walk out, if not they won't touch it," she said.

Garza said funding for programs to help those in need shifts every couple years depending on the administration. She said not everyone understands how poverty stricken the Valley is.

"To actually understand - this is the biggest poverty area - but what does that mean? Garza said. "It's abstract to a lot of people that don't live here. So, I don't know what it's going to take, but again, depending on the national budget now, because it hasn't been passed for 2018. So, it all depends on what they cut and what they leave."

Garza said guidelines for federal and state programs can be strict, sometimes even disqualifying the people that need it most.

"Remember when (Hurricane) Dolly hit us? A lot of the people did not qualify for FEMA to rehab their homes. Why? Because they were not maintained," she explained.

Rivas said she’s just glad her struggle is over for now.

"I'm getting my new house," Rivas said. "It's small but it's a house. It's somewhere that I can stay, and I don't have to be sleeping outdoors."

Garza said people should try to reach out for help from community organization like: local churches, Youth Build, Habitat for Humanity and hardware stores.

She said those living in extreme conditions should also consider applying for housing or vouchers to help with rent. Those who qualify must prove they’re of 18 years or older, provide a birth certificate, proof of income and a Social Security number. 

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