Senior needs help repairing Wilma-ravaged condo

There is hope for senior hurricane victims on a fixed income

who didn't get enough money from FEMA to repair their homes.

Article Courtesy of The Miami Herald

Published January 1, 2005

Moe Gottlieb of Sunrise is at an age when he should be set for life. At 88, he owns a condominium and has a small but steady income that meets his retirement needs.

But Hurricane Wilma came along and destroyed his most precious possession: his home.

Gottlieb's Sunrise Lakes Boulevard condo is a mess. Ceilings caved in one after the other. The walls are blackened with mold. The carpets are ruined. And he lost most of his clothes and furnishings.

He applied to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for help and received only $2,700.

''That's not enough,'' said Gottlieb, who gets by on a small pension and Social Security payments. "I am living with a friend of mine until I can figure out how I can get my home fixed.''

There are at least three places to turn for senior citizens on a fixed income who did not get enough money from FEMA to fix their homes:

 Bill Raphan, the state's associate condominium ombudsman. Raphan's job, a position within the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation's Division of Land Sales, Condominiums and Mobile Homes, is to mediate disputes between condo owners and their associations.

The ombudsman's services are free to condo owners.

''That condo has tremendous hurricane-related damage,'' said Raphan, who said he has dealt with Gottlieb's condo before.

Raphan contacted FEMA and got them to agree to re-evaluate Gottlieb's damage. He hopes Gottlieb will get more money after that reinspection.

He spoke with Gottlieb and is speaking directly with FEMA and the condo association.

 The Areawide Council on Aging of Broward County helps seniors with almost any problem.

''If he calls us directly, we can refer him to different groups that can help him out,'' a spokesman said.

 Neighbors to the Rescue, a new program started by Volunteer Broward.

Its director of community relations, Audra Vaz, expects that by mid-February Neighbors to the Rescue will have enough volunteers who specialize in home repairs to help fix Gottlieb's home.

The organization is looking for volunteers who are handy with tools and can transport items. They also are looking for donations of clothing and furniture.

And once volunteers are in place next month, Vaz expects that Neighbors to the Rescue will be able to help fix up Gottlieb's condo.

''We would love to help Mr. Gottlieb,'' Vaz said.