October 24, 2006
By Theresa Schmidt
Eighty year old Helen Jones tries hard to keep her house clean but it's not easy when water is leaking in nearly every room. She explains, pointing up to a blue tarp taped to her ceiling, "When it's raining the ceiling is still falling. I know it's sad. You know I feel sad about it."
Helen places pans, trays and a wash tub on her bed to keep it dry. "I put it right here and see it rains." She's slept on the sofa since Hurricane Rita. "Because I can't sleep--the rain falls on me, a piece of lumber falling on me. I paid the man $20 to put that," she explains pointing again to the blue tarp on the ceiling. Amazed, I ask, "Just that one blue square?" "Yes mam," she says.
And there are rats. Says Helen, "I don't see that good but I see the rats in the house. Yes mam, I see rats. I'm not too sure, the rats could have bitten my foot. You see it's got a little black spot right here. I let my foot soak in some salt water and vinegar. I done went to the doctor a lot of times. I don't want the doctor to cut my foot."
Jones has rented the house for 30 years and since her landlord died she says the heirs haven't done much. "They do whatever they want. If they want to fix it, they fix it. If they don't want to fix it it's up to them, it's their property. It's not mine."
She pays $250 a month rent plus utilities. Says Helen, "I've never been behind on my rent. I pay rent, I pay bills. I pay insurance. I pay all that."
Many of her belongings are bagged to keep them dry. Ceiling tiles that have fallen are on the front porch. For now she waits having faith things will get better eventually.