LANCASTER, Texas -- It has been five years since an outbreak of tornadoes hit the Lancaster area. Some survivors are still struggling to rebuild.
“It’s been hard,” Beatrice Stevenson mumbled as she walked into her home.
The door was slightly ajar to let sunlight in. There is no electricity in the place.
On this cold night, Stevenson will, once again, sleep on a chair in her living room. It is a make-shift bed, conveniently placed in front of a space heater that's being powered by using electricity from a generous neighbor’s house.
“I have nothing,” Stevenson cried. “I have nothing. I have nothing.”
The 82-year-old widow says her Lancaster home has been left in shambles. As she picked up a flashlight to walk around the dark house, she pointed out that utilities cannot be connected. There are no interior walls, only wooden frames.
And that's not all.
“No toilet. No water coming out of the hydrant. I have to heat everything from that one line," she said.
She says her troubles all started five years ago, when a tornado blew through the area, damaging her house on April 3, 2012. Stevenson ran to a closet to hide during that storm. The tornado ripped off her roof. It busted the windows and left the floors and walls of the home damaged.
Stevenson says her insurance company cut checks totaling $47,000 for repairs. She used the help of a public adjuster and a local contractor to fix up the house.
But remember, that was five years ago.
“I sat here every day waiting and wondering when were they going to come back and do work," Stevenson explained.
One of the contractors who worked on the house says his crew stopped working when the money for repairs ran out.
Stevenson says tracking down the payouts to several parties has been a challenge over the years. She says lawyers have even walked away from lawsuits against her insurance and mortgage companies.
The homeowner says she feels she's been duped. Stevenson just does not fully know by whom.
“I didn’t want to accept it,” Stevenson cried. “I didn’t want to accept it. Honest to God. I didn’t want to say those words.”
Until three months ago, Stevenson was staying with family. Now she is back in the house, waiting and wondering if it can ever feel like home again.
Organizers of the home repair efforts for Stevenson’s home say more details may be found online.
“I love my place,” Stevenson said. “I still love it, but it hurts. When you look, walk around and look. It hurts.”
Phylissia Clark with the Better Business Bureau of North Central Texas says it is not uncommon to hear of home repair complaints after a natural disaster.
The BBB advises consumers to:
- Vet companies thoroughly
- Check references and reviews
- Look for accredited companies
- Never sign over your entire check
- Pay in installments (BBB recommends 1/3 up front)
- Check with licensing company, if possible
- Complaints about businesses can be filed online with the BBB or by calling 214-220-2000.