As we first reported 2 weeks ago, 78-year-old Dorothy Diggs has been living in a heavily damaged home ever since Hurricane Harvey. The great-grandmother doesn’t have insurance and has been living in the damaged home off Bay Cedar Drive for about 35 years.
Following Harvey, mold is now growing inside the home out of control. In addition, Diggs says there are rats, and she doesn’t have working plumbing in the bathroom. As a result, Diggs says she has been using plastic buckets as a toilet and to bathe.
"I was living a pretty decent life before until Harvey set in," said Diggs.
The home’s roof was repaired by the City of Houston in 2017 as part of its Blue Tarp Program. Diggs says she doesn’t have the necessary money to move and submitted paperwork for help years ago.
"The earliest I was approved was 2018," said Diggs. "They’ve been putting me off ever since."
On Wednesday, Texas officials started putting Diggs in a hotel room.
"I think I’m getting on the right track now," she said "[However] they still haven’t gotten the permit yet, but they were going to move me out of this mold."
Since our first story aired, we’ve been exchanging messages with a spokesperson from the Texas General Land Office (GLO) regarding the reconstruction of Dorothy’s home. According to the spokesperson, GLO approved construction for the new home in January. In May, they submitted a residential permit to the City of Houston. Now, they say they are ready to start working, but the Houston Urban Forestry Office is questioning the removal of a tree in the home’s front yard.
The GLO spokesperson also said Houston law requires all new homes to have sidewalks even if they didn’t have one originally. The builder believes they’ll need to remove the tree in question in order to build the required sidewalk. So now, the project is on pause.
"We’re going to reach out to Urban Forestry and see what is the real problem here," said Houston City Council member Carolyn Evans-Shabazz. "The location of the tree ought to indicate, it can’t possibly be the location of that tree."
Council member Evans-Shabazz is the local representative for Dorothy’s home in District D.
"Even if there were a tree that’s an impediment to a sidewalk, that shouldn’t stop demolition," said Evans-Shabazz. "Usually a sidewalk is the last thing you install."
"The City of Houston is requiring a sidewalk be installed where it currently stands," said a spokesperson from GLO.
"It will be the only house on the cul-de-sac with a sidewalk, but it is required. The Homeowner Assistance Program and its partners are working hard to try to get homes built, but unfortunately, we cannot proceed to construction without a permit. In your story, Ms. Diggs said, "once they give me the go-ahead, I’ll be ready." That is our sentiment as well. As soon as we have a permit, we are ready to build."
The state has since put Ms. Diggs in a hotel. She remains hopeful the construction process will begin soon on her new home.
"I get a good night's sleep tonight [and] a good hot bath," said Diggs. "I won’t have to take a bath in that plastic tub."