Family Still Homeless After Tornado

UPDATE, SAT, 6:00 AM: We have a Newswatch update to a story we brought you about a woman and her four children, still homeless seven-months after a deadly tornado destroyed their home.

In May, Tracy Meier's neighbors contacted Newswatch. They wanted to know why the rubble hadn't been cleared from her Warrick County property - and what they could do about it. They said the area was an eyesore and safety hazard.

Newswatch contacted Tracy, and shortly after the story aired, calls to volunteer time and equipment poured in.

The very next morning, contractor Steven Young began organizing a crew to tear down the still-standing portion of Tracy's home.

But according to Tracy's brother, Brendan Meier, not much progress has been made with the clean-up.

And Steven Young told us last week, there's some ambiguity with liability issues and the contractors are still waiting for the 'go ahead' from city officials to bring in heavy equipment.

But they haven't given up yet.

If you'd like to volunteer your time or supplies, please call (812) 306-8362 or (812) 897-6748.

Previously: After the November 2005 tornado, communities pulled together with donations and supplies to help those who lost so much. But what happens when a family loses everything, then falls through the cracks?

A Warrick County mother and her four children are homeless, even now - more than six months after the storm. They lost everything but the clothes on their backs, and now, they need your help.

Questions were raised by this family's neighbors, as we first told you last week, about why the lot hasn't been cleared of debris - and they wanted to know what they could do about it.

The neighbors' complaint? The home is a neighborhood eyesore and safety hazard.
On Wednesday, Newswatch contacted the homeowner, Tracy Meier, to find out exactly why her property remains in this condition so long after their home was destroyed. What we've learned is, the
family is doing its best to cope with the tragedy of that night, even staying with friends until something can be done.

And Tracy is doing all she can to make sure her children's lives aren't disrupted, even driving them each day to the same Newburgh schools they've always attended. She says she can't even bear to look at what's left of her once-beautiful home.

And, she tells us, her already-tight single-income budget prior to the storm, is being exasperated by mortgage payments and other everyday expenses, allowing no room for the cost of clean-up...much less, rebuilding. "I want to have our home back. We all want to move back home. We didn't ask for the tornado."

Tracy works and attends college. She pays nearly $700 for a home that no longer exists - along with rent and utilities at her temporary residence.Tracy adds that she doesn't get assistance with her children's expenses, but that wasn't a problem before the tornado. "It's been very trying, very difficult. I'm having to transport the kids to school in Newburgh everyday. We're staying at a friend's house in Evansville. That's what we've been doing this whole time."And more than six-months later, the structure remains in shambles, a shell of what it used to be. And neighbors, including Ruth Plummer, say they have had enough. "An empty lot wouldn't be as disgusting as this is," states Plummer.

Meier's insurance ran out two weeks before the storm hit, in the midst of a financial hardship. A divorced mother, she tells us, "I had to make a decision, something had to be sacrificed...and the kids can't eat insurance."She says the Newburgh United Methodist Church offered to clean things up at one point.
"But the church feels like they could possibly be liable for destroying the mortgage company's property, so it's a 'Catch 22.'" Even though Tracy says the deed is still in her name, it's still.
Still, some neighbors, like the couple rebuilding their house next door to the damaged home, say they're willing to pitch in and help clean-up, if given the opportunity. Joan Gajderowicz says, "And it's sad. But I'm sure, you know, that I'm that type of person - if it's a weekend where I'm free, I probably would come and help her, though."

And that's what Meier, like many of her neighbors, has been waiting and hoping for, formore than six months. "That would be wonderful. A demolition company...get rid of something, so we can start building something," she says.

And they're pressed for time, too. The president of the Warrick County Commissioners, Carl Conner, says they're drafting an ordinance which would give them the right to go in and clean up the property. But there would be a lien attached to the home, which is what Tracy fears most. The earliest date could be sometime next month.

Steven Young, a contractor at Steven Young Construction, in partnership with Johnson Construction of Boonville, contacted Tracy to volunteer his time and expertise in demolition Thursday morning.

But Young says, he's surprised that this is the only home involved. "There are many others, even on Outer Lincoln Avenue. We did a couple of homes down on Maryjoetta a couple of months ago. It takes good people like us to help these people out, and take care of what needs to be taking care of. It's a shame people, like this lady, fall through the cracks, and it's taken this long for somebody to even notice them."

Young is pulling together a crew and seeking volunteers. But it's not just labor that's needed in this case, Young says things like a backhoe, dump truck, fees for things such as the landfill (estimated at $2000 to $3000), and the building permit - the list goes on.

Young and a co-worker are heading to the address Thursday morning. If you'd like to volunteer your time or supplies, please call (812) 306-8362 or (812) 897-6748.