Family Forced from Home Not Finding Relief - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

04/19/06

Family Forced from Home Not Finding Relief

Rivera and some of her damaged property. Rivera and some of her damaged property.

Imagine sewage flooding your home, covering pretty much everything in it. That's what happened to Gloria Rivera. Now the City of Savannah is offering help, but there's a catch.

"Last night, me and my five girls had to sleep in my Jeep," Rivera said. "I thought I would never hit rock bottom. This is rock bottom."

Rivera thought it couldn't get any worse. Three weeks ago, a sewage line under her house backed up, sending gallons of raw sewage into her home. City workers came to clean it up, but you can still smell and see the damage.

"Yet they say there's nothing wrong with my furniture," Rivera said.

The city had been putting her family up at a hotel. But all that could change. They're offering Rivera $613.29 for damages. But to get the cash, she has to release the city from liability. If she doesn't sign, she doesn't get any money or the hotel room.

She showed us some of the damage. "This right here, with the blankets and towels and some of their clothes in it, plus my rug that they cut up because of the sewage, they don't want to give me anything but $613. I can't live off of $613 because more stuff got damaged than that."

Like her cabinets, which are soaked, stained and warped from sewage. But taking a stand is taking a toll. "I had to sleep in my car last night, me and my kids. All of us slept in the car because they wouldn't put us up and that's not right. This is not my fault. This is their fault."

Her family and friends don't have room for her and all her children. Since the spill, Rivera's had to take so much time off from work, she's lost her job. And the kids are getting sick from the sewage.

"My kids are looking at me. What can I do?" she said. "I'm supposed to be protecting them. There's nothing I can do for them, but just show them that I love them and that it's going to be all right. You can't keep being strong for them, if you've got nothing going."

We spoke with city officials tonight. They say the damage assessment was done by an independent company. Carol Bell, Savannah's central services director, says they're waiting for an itemized list of damages from Rivera. If she presents that to them and signs a petition stating her damages, she can go back to the hotel.

Reported by: Liz Flynn, lflynn@wtoc.com

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