Water had never entered the home Pamela McCarty has lived in for over 20 years. Spending most of her life in Texas, she spent time in New York and Ohio before moving back in 1994 to care for her aging father after her mother’s passing. As the youngest of 13 children and her father’s caregiver at the time of his death, the home was left to her.
Slowly, but surely, McCarty was fixing up the home. Fresh paint here, new furnishings there. She loved her home. Her world was completely turned upside when along came Harvey. She had seen the streets fill up, but water had never entered her family home. Her sister’s home, a few streets away, flooded before hers, so she came over to stay with her and borrowed some dry clothes. They both got comfortable for the night and fell asleep. “I jumped out of bed in the morning thinking I was going to go make us some coffee and I stepped into the water.” The water was rising fast, so she and her sister decided it was time to get out of the house. They walked outside, through the water, to find a man driving a city dump truck rescuing residents. “He took us to the corner store where other people were waiting for help, waiting for someone to tell us all where we could go.” No one could go home at the time.
McCarty stayed with a nephew for about a week before staying with another one of her sisters. She was never required to have flood insurance in her area, so she didn’t have it. She lost everything in the home; the water rose higher than the top of her bed. Even with her low/fixed social security income, FEMA denied her assistance for repairs to her home because it was still legally titled in the name of her deceased father. She called everyone she could think of to see who could help her. Lone Star Legal Aid had helped her with other legal matters years ago, so she dialed straight in.
FEMA’s rules require a registrant or disaster survivor to prove ownership by having their name on documents such as a Deed or Official Record for the home, Mortgage Payment Book or other mortgage documents, Real Property Insurance Policy, Property Tax Receipts or Tax Bill and/or a Property Title or Mobile Home Certificate of Title. Many families in Texas live in an inherited property that has not gone through a formal probate procedure, meaning their names are not referenced in the approved/required documents and they are being denied assistance.
Disaster staff attorney Lasonya Mahoney took Ms. McCarty’s case. She drafted and executed an affidavit of heirship and filed it with Jefferson County property records. Once that was done, attorney Mahoney was able to send a letter on Ms. McCarty’s behalf enclosing supporting documents. After waiting about a month, constantly checking her status online and conferring with her attorney, Ms. McCarty said “I was checking my bank account to see what little money I had and I was flabbergasted. I was so happy; it was just a blessing to see. I called Ms. Mahoney right away and she was so excited for me. Now I have the money to get some contractors to come and fix my house.”