Aftermath (Part 1.5): An update on the Harris Family

Hours before our report exposed potential failures by the program, Rebuild Florida is closing the Harris' case and took steps to get their storage units back.
Published: Oct. 25, 2023 at 6:43 PM CDT
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - In a recent News4 Fact Finders investigation, the Harris family shared their story after Hurricane Michael left their home in ruins.

Hours before our Tuesday report exposed what the Harris family believes is the failure of a government-funded home restoration program, they got a visit.

Rebuild Florida officials seemingly paid a company to move the Harris’ household furnishings out of storage.

The family’s photo albums, and furniture— essentially their entire home— was packed away in these in portable storage units on the property, courtesy of Rebuild Florida. Now, Rebuild Florida is closing the Harris’ case and taking steps to get their storage units back.

Homeowner Regina Harris said their belongings that were in the unit went in fine and came out covered in mildew. She said she’s not surprised since Rebuild Florida stored them for two and a half years. 45 days had been the projected time the items would stay in storage.

The Harris’ told News4 that because of that mildew, they didn’t want the furnishings back in their rebuilt home. Regina said she was asked by Rebuild Florida to pay for the storage pods herself or remove her belongings by herself. She said they then offered to remove the items for her.

As of Wednesday, the storage pods still sit empty on the Harris’ property, not far from where their belongings are now piled up in the yard.

This is a new development in a saga of issues for the Harris family.

As they said in our earlier report, the Harris family believes the repair work Rebuild Florida did on their home was shotty. They told News4 that crews narrowed hallways so much that Regina’s husband, who is wheelchair-bound, can’t get through the doorways and hallways.

News4 received a comment from the Florida Department of Commerce who is over the Rebuild Florida program. Their statement is below:

As you reported, the Rebuild Florida program has completed Ms. Harris’ home. We have done everything to return her and her family to a decent, safe and sanitary home, as we have for the nearly 1,000 homeowners we have served through our Hurricane Michael housing program.

We understand a contractor’s right and expectation to retrieve the storage units they are paying for after completion of a project to assist other homeowners in the program.

We too are rooting for a happy ending for Mrs. Harris and her family.

Florida Department of Commerce

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