‘Rebuild Florida’ flips Lakeland home that was put in backward, woman still raising money for carport to avoid eviction

8 On Your Side

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida thought it was helping a Hurricane Irma victim when it recently gave her a brand new mobile home, but the Polk County senior was devastated by the delivery. Deborah Shiver’s home was put in backward and no one would help her fix it. That’s when 8 On Your Side stepped in.

On a January day in Lakeland, contractors split Deborah’s new mobile home into two pieces to flip it. Months ago, Deborah hopelessly watched as it was installed backward.

“I got out of my car like a banshee screaming, ‘no, no, that’s not right,'” she said. “They said, ‘well this is the way we were told,’ and they wouldn’t stop.”

8 On Your Side did the story. Viewers made it viral.

Now, Deborah isn’t just witnessing the pieces of her house come back together, but also the pieces of her life.

“When you’re looking at this, what’s going through your mind?” Investigator Mahsa Saeidi asked.

“I’m very excited! I really am. It just feels right in my heart and soul,” Deborah responded. “I am very happy with what y’all have done.”

Deborah is just days away from moving into the new home.

“Everybody was asking me how I’d get it started and I said, I just called 8 On Your Side and they came through”

Deborah’s struggles with her home all started in 2017 when Hurricane Irma damaged her roof and carport. She only wanted repairs, but the state, through a program called “Rebuild Florida,” determined replacement was cheaper.

As 8 On Your Side continues to expose, the journey for storm victims to get help is a long one. In fact, “Rebuild Florida” completed less than one in ten projects in two years.

But Deborah stuck with it.

She says the state needs to pick up the pace, process more claims and be more precise.

“I feel that ‘Rebuild Florida’ needs to be more involved with the people that are getting new homes so that they know they’re putting them in right,” said Deborah.

An 8 On Your Side warning for thousands of other “Rebuild Florida” applicants wanting repairs: Before you agree to have your mobile home replaced, know the state cannot pay for a carport, shed or other structures your community may require. The feds won’t allow it.

The Lakeland Harbor community where Deborah lives required residents to have a carport and a shed. Deborah now has to come up with cash or face eviction.

Deborah is looking on the bright side, partly because so many in the community are rooting for her.

“I had people that reached out that I didn’t even know,” said Deborah. “There’s a lot of good people out there, there really are.”

Since December, 8 On Your Side revealed Florida is sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars intended for storm victims like Deborah. Since our reports, the state started releasing millions more.

Now, 8 On Your Side is looking into whether its actions will speed up the pace of these claims so storm victims who have been waiting years for help finally get it.

Meanwhile, Deborah is raising money for the carport and has set up a GoFundMe for those who would like to help.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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