HOUSTON – Margaret Kirby was at her fourth hotel when she met KPRC 2′s Rilwan Balogun Monday afternoon.
“It’s been five months, going on six now, because they just extended it again to October and four hotels,” Kirby explained.
She said she doesn’t know when she will be able to stop living out of suitcases.
Kirby, who said she first started the repair process of her home with the city of Houston, explained how the U.S. Department of Houston and Urban Development stopped the city from providing Harvey relief funds to help put people back into their homes.
In 2020, Kirby said she received a call from GLO. She said they offered to pay for her to stay at the Extended-Stay Hotel since she was living with family members, awaiting repairs on her home.
GLO then rebuilt her home based on the rendering she selected. However, when Kirby went to visit the home in the last few weeks, she noticed the front doors weren’t wide enough for her and her wheelchair.
“It’s not accessible for me to get in. They said they were going to knock down a closet out of the bathroom so I could get into the bathroom because I couldn’t even get into the bathroom. All I want to do is get in the house and be comfortable,” Kirby said. “I was told it could be ADA-accessible. I signed the papers. They had all of my measurements, but somebody fumbled the ball and didn’t do it. It seems like I’m the scapegoat.”
Kirby said she then learned the dimensions of her bathroom hadn’t changed. It was too small.
“It’s just distressing. It’s frustrating and it’s so stressful because I need to get settled. I’m tired,” she said.
A spokesperson for the TX General Land Office said Kirby’s original bathroom wasn’t ADA compliant.
“It was determined during the eligibility process that Ms. Kirby required ADA accommodations for mobility issues,” the spokesperson said in an e-mail. “The program worked with Ms. Kirby to document her need for ADA accommodations in accordance with federal laws and regulations.”
The spokesperson said once they were made aware of the problems and they worked to fix it.
“The architectural plans Ms. Kirby approved included an ADA-compliant master bathroom. However, during construction, it was determined that, even though the doorways were designed and constructed to be regulation ADA-compliant size, they were not sufficiently wide enough. Therefore, through a custom modification, additional doorway expansion was provided as an eligible reasonable accommodation.”
Stephanie Duke with Disability Rights Texas said unfortunately there might be many people like Kirby.
“Unfortunately, to ensure accessibility and inclusivity, that equity has to have intent. That intent has to be ingrained in the development the planning, everything to ensure an equitable outcome,” Duke said. “Ensuring their needs are being met or there’s transparency and information being provided so that way they can get answers to the questions they may have.”
Duke shares the following advice for anyone who might be in a similar situation:
- First, speak directly with a case manager if the person is working with an agency.
- If working with an agency, file an internal complaint. Then look to local resources and organizations.
- Finally, if all else fails, Duke said to call legal representation.
“She has rights. If she can’t access her home that’s something she has to advocate for. Whether it’s an organization like Disability Rights Texas or another community-based organization we have to ensure that she has the support to get what she needs and is entitled to,” Duke said.
She adds the advocacy organization wants people to reach them before they have problems. They want to work alongside one another to prevent discrimination.
Kirby will meet with a representative from GLO on Tuesday, Oct. 3 to sign off on the final floor plan.
“It’s just distressing,” Kirby said. “It’s frustrating and it’s so stressful because I need to get settled. I’m tired. I’m tired.”
Sen. Borris Miles represents Kirby in the state senate. He watched a preview of KPRC 2′s Rilwan Balogun’s report and reached out to him. The senator’s office said they will work directly with the Texas General Land Office to expedite her process.
Texas General Land Office Statement:
Ms. Kirby qualified under U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regulations for an ADA-compliant 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom home. The reconstructed home replaced her storm-damaged home, which was built in 1950.
As you can see in these photos, neither of the bathrooms in Ms. Kirby’s previous home were Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant:
It was determined during the eligibility process that Ms. Kirby required ADA accommodations for mobility issues. The program worked with Ms. Kirby to document her need for ADA accommodations in accordance with federal laws and regulations.
The architectural plans Ms. Kirby approved included an ADA-compliant master bathroom. However, during construction, it was determined that, even though the doorways were designed and constructed to be regulation ADA-compliant size, they were not sufficiently wide enough. Therefore, through a custom modification, additional doorway expansion was provided as an eligible reasonable accommodation. Recently, after construction was complete, Ms. Kirby contacted our office regarding additional mobility concerns. The Homeowner Assistance Program team continues to work closely with Ms. Kirby on additional custom modifications allowable under federal regulations to increase the mobility and safety features in the bathroom to meet her needs.
The Homeowner Assistance Program has rebuilt more than 7,500 homes for Texans in need of assistance following storm damage. We continue to work diligently to provide energy-efficient, ADA-compliant, and resilient homes for those who qualify under federal guidelines for assistance.