Harlem Heights community rebuilding with the help of a nonprofit

Published: January 24, 2023 4:28 PM EST

The Harlem Heights neighborhood was hit hard by Hurricane Ian, and many were left without help to rebuild. On Tuesday, a nonprofit sent crews of volunteers to start helping the community rebuild.

You see the smiles now, “I’m happy, I’m happy. I’ll probably die in this house,​ but I’ll be in it,” said Jan Siebert, of Harlem Heights.

“Hope I can get my home back, that’s it. I hope I can get my home back,” said Luis Rivera, of Harlem Heights.

The smiles are a long time coming. Siebert and Rivera suffered greatly when Hurricane Ian ripped through their homes, but with a lot of work and patience, they made it.

“We couldn’t get out. The water was four feet deep already,” said Rivera.

Rivera said he lost part of his leg thanks to a flesh-eating bacteria he contracted while pushing through floodwaters to save his grandsons during the storm.

“I went to the hospital. The first thing they told me was, you’re not going there, you’re going to the surgery room. We have to cut that calf out. At least 12 inches to get that infection out.”

Siebert lost her husband in the storm, along with almost everything she’s ever owned. “Some things I thought I could save, it was no use. It breaks my heart.”

Harlem Heights. (Credit: WINK News)

On Tuesday, with the help of the nonprofit Rebuilding Together, 30 homeowners in Harlem Heights got help to repair and rebuild following the storm.

“We have been afforded the funds to be able to come down here to do 30 homes. So we’re going to replace the roofs. And we’re also doing drywall and interior repairs,” said Brandy Canada, senior director of operations for Rebuilding Together.

Siebert and Rivera went through a lot and were finally given a lot. With this help, they’ll soon be able to move back into their homes. Something that seemed impossible just a few months ago.

“I’m overwhelmed by all these people that have been around. This has just been the most amazing. Just the most amazing thing. Could never thank them enough,” said Siebert.

“These people helping you out, I appreciate everything they are doing,” said Rivera.

Siebert said she doesn’t care if she has furniture or a bed to sleep on because “Those things aren’t important anymore.” All she needs is a safe place with a roof over her head.

Rebuilding Together said the permitting process has slowed things down, but they plan on staying and helping these homeowners as long as they need to.