Ike Victim Asks Amy For Help

HOUSTON - Hurricane Ike wiped out hundreds of homes and businesses, causing nearly $30 billion in damage in the United States.

Nearly two years later, most families and businesses have bounced back. But one woman in La Porte, Texas, still struggling to get help, thought she had exhausted every resource. Then she asked KPRC Local 2's Amy Davis.

Davis called on local businesses to get this one forgotten woman back on her feet 21 months after the storm.

For 85 years old, Bernice Benavides gets around. She's perfectly content in the La Porte trailer park in an RV she's called home for 12 years.

"I love it," she told Davis.

"Why do you like it so much?" Davis asked.

"Well, if you can't walk, you don't have far to go," said Benavides. "I can reach just about anything I need. And as long as I can keep my medical equipment dry, I'm okay."

But keeping anything dry in her trailer is tough since a tree fell on it during Hurricane Ike.

With no means to repair the roof, Benavides has learned to live with it. She catches the rainwater that comes in with plastic pans, but it's not a long term fix. Benavides called everyone she knew to ask for help to make repairs.

"Salvation Army, Red Cross, Sheltering Arms," said Benavides, reading from a long list of charities and organizations she's contacted for help.

Everyone told her they couldn't help until finally Benavides called the Hurricane Assistance Center at the University of Houston Law Center.

Paralegal Judi Foster answered the phone.

"She didn't have a legal issue. That was the problem," said Foster. "There was nothing we could do for her. We handle legal issues."

That did not stop Foster from trying.

"It's very sad to have to tell someone 'I can't help you' and just hang up on them," Foster told Davis.

FEMA said it couldn't help Benavides because her home sits on wheels. Another social service agency said it could only help make repairs if she owned the property where her RV sits.

"For one reason or another, she did not meet the criteria," explained Foster to Davis. "I was hoping that you could get a response that I couldn't get."

After a few weeks and a lot of phone calls, the response was more than Benavides could have hoped for.

A local non-profit organization anonymously donated a 32-foot travel trailer.

Friendswood Realtor John Martin helped get the trailer at a FEMA auction and hauled it to the park where Benavides lives.

"My house had a lot of damage and, you know, I had the means and the insurance to be able to recover from it," said Martin. "So, anything to be able to do and help something like that, I feel it's my part."

Blinds.com donated linens and towels to make the new house a home.

"We want to make sure that we take care of our community and make sure we're doing all the right things," said Blinds.com spokesman Sean Graham.

And since Benavides couldn't move her scooter shed to her new lot, Tuff Shed built her a brand new one.

"We're gonna build one big enough to hold her scooter as well as some other items that she may want to put in there," said Tuff Shed's Mike Dosch. "It'll certainly protect it from the elements for years and years."

Benavides was overwhelmed when she walked into her new home.

"I'm so grateful," she said, through tears. "I've tried for two years to get help and no one would help me. Thank you so much. God bless you all."

C & D RV Sales and Service also helped Benavides connect the gas in the new trailer.

Local 2 thanks all of the businesses that came through for Benavides.

If you have a consumer question to "Ask Amy," send her an e-mail.Copyright 2006 by Click2Houston.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.