PORT ORANGE, Fla. – At 90 years old, James Northcote, a Marine Veteran who fought in the Korean war, now finds himself fighting the mold-infested walls inside his mobile home.
“All that yellow is discoloration and black mold. Back in there you can see the black mold creeping down there,” the Marine from Rochester, New York pointed out with his finger.
Northcote has been living in his mobile home in Port Orange for 18 years. He said the mold started to build up three years ago after Hurricane Irma tore off most of his roof. When it rains, he has a small tank read which is filled with Clorox that he uses to spray on to the walls where the mold is located. He said it helps clean the area.
“Rain came all the way down along this wall. I have buckets all over there on the other side of my bed,” he said.
His bed is next to where the drywall had to be ripped out, leaving the wooden beams of the house exposed and now rotting from the rain and humidity. During the winter months when temperatures drop, he can no longer rely on the furnace unit -- it was damaged from the storm in 2017.
“Rain went down the chimney and it’s a gas furnace but the mechanism is electric, and it got soaked so I haven’t had any heat in two years. In the wintertime, it gets kinda nippy,” he said.
In 2018, Northcote applied for assistance through the Rebuild Florida program-- offered after Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc and caused extensive damage to thousands of homes across the state. The state program is intended to help people make repairs or replace their homes altogether. The program is run through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and is a partnership with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“I’ve been told on three different occasions that they have assigned a contractor to me and they would contact me. (that) they would contact me within 10 days,” the Korean War veteran said.
Northcote tells News 6 he even mailed a check for $1,000 to Rebuild Florida back in June as part of the process.
“I had to complete all eight phases which I have done and they told me that I have completed all the phases,” he said.
Susan Schwab, a member of the American Veterans organization in Port Orange, realized James' frustration and started to help by writing letters to the agency in search of answers.
“As I got more involved and was not getting replies from Rebuild Florida or not getting certainly no action, my letters got a little sterner,” Schwab said. “Until a contractor shows up on-site, I’m still doubtful.”
According to Schwab, they recently got some alleviating news.
“We finally are hearing from them. Still, no physical action but I did get two emails in the last two days and they have issued a document to start the process,” she said.
Northcote’s story also got the attention of two local companies. United Water Restoration Group and Cabinet Wholesale Outlet.
“They’ve re-tarped the place temporarily, they found a tree service to help with the property. They’re working on temporary housing for while the work is being done,” Schwab said.
Mark Burger, who works in the sales and marketing department for United Water Restoration Group said the house needs to be demolished.
“This is gonna be demoed. We just wanted to make sure that there’s an accountable party. That’s really what (he) wanted out of all this. He didn’t want charity; he really wanted a hand up instead of a handout,” Burger said.
They’re also helping the Marine veteran with a place to stay while the work is being done on his property. Through a GoFundMe page, they hope to collect enough money to cover housing expenses.
“The temporary housing will be ready about on the 20th. We do have a local hotel that’s willing to assist. I want to get him out of here as soon as possible because mold doesn’t have any friends,” Burger said. “We definitely need somebody with a pod short term to come grab his belongings, have a cleaning crew come on and decipher what stays or goes.”
The GoFundMe page is being administered by the American Veterans of Port Orange. To make a donation, click here.
Northcote says he received a phone Wednesday from a contractor who said he had been appointed by Rebuild Florida to work on his home. No date has been set to begin renovations.