On Friday, March 5 NACC visited the home of Lolita Cerf, 75, along with a public adjuster and contractor in order to see her house and get an idea of how long it will take to get it put back together.
She is one of the first participants in “Helping Houston Rebuild,” a project of NACC to rebuild the homes of seniors and single mothers after the recent weather emergency. The damage is to her galvanized pipes, which run under the 1950s home that her dad built. Fortunately, there was no flooding, but her access to water has been limited because it’s leaking into her lawn outside.
“I don’t have any water, I need water,” said Cerf. “It’s running, but we had to cut it off. When we came back yesterday there was water all up front, so we just cut it off.”
“Houston has never been through this before. Not during my lifetime,” she said. “The same thing with Hurricane Ike. I mean my God I stood here and saw my trees. I’ve had a lot of trees cut because of that. And the wind was just terrible. It was scary.”
Cerf worked for Air One Express for 27 years doing office work before retiring in 2008. Back in college, she enjoyed music and singing. She has two children, three grandchildren, one of which lives with and cares for her, and a great-grandchild. Cerf had a stroke in 2011 and uses an electric wheelchair when she and her boyfriend travel to scenic Texas spots and to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.
“I’m doing okay, I have a pinched nerve,” she said.
“My girlfriend came yesterday. I rolled with her. We took my dog to be groomed.,” she said. “Just to get out of the house. But see, I used to be in the gym three or four times a week. I worked out like everything, and it’s really traumatic for me because I’m not used to this.”
Cerf lived in her parents’ house off and on, but moved in permanently in 1996 after her daughter graduated high school.
“I’m like, this property is just sitting here. It doesn’t make sense for me to be in an apartment when we can be here.”
She moved in and had the entire house gutted for repairs, room by room. She said she didn’t know her pipes would be unable to withstand the winter storm.
“The lights went out that Monday morning at 2:00 pm, and I was here and just shivering, and my daughter and my grandson also. And we had flashlights and everything. Later that morning I called my boyfriend and told him, and his lights went out also that Monday. Then we ended up going over to his daughter’s and spending the night.”
Cerf stayed with her boyfriend’s daughter until Thursday when her lights came on permanently after neighbors called her throughout the week to give her updates on whether they were on or not.
“I think I came back that Thursday and the lights stayed on. I mean it was cold in this house. Really cold.”
“It’s been off and on with the water because everything is just bursting. I didn’t even know I had pipes over there on the side, but that’s controlling the washer and dryer. The washing machine, you could put it on 30 minutes, and when it got to 23 minutes it would just completely stop, and I’m like ‘what’s going on?’ because there’s a blockage. You definitely need water for the commode in the bathroom. So, it’s all about water. We can’t take water for granted. We can cook a few things, but since we don’t have water, I’m not trying to cook. Now the kids will bring something or call me up ‘what do you want to eat?’ whatever and they bring stuff, you know,” she said.
Cerf celebrated her birthday on February 15, the day she stopped having running water.
“I’ll never forget this birthday,” she said. “Since February 15, it’s just been up and down with the pipes”
Her homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover her pipes, and there was no damage to the inside of her home. She said the repairs would have to be out of pocket.
“The cost is so high, five, six, $7,000. That winter storm just put everybody in dire straights.”
Cerf heard about “Helping Houston Rebuild” through her son, who encouraged her to apply.