HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — Two and a half years after Hurricane Harvey, construction on the Gomez home is finally about to begin.
Betzabe Gomez and her family will have their Harris County home torn down after years of repeated flood damage, and a brand new home will stand in its place.
We've been following the Gomez family's journey since December 2017, when Betzabe stole hearts with her letter to Santa Claus. We learned then her family had been denied emergency help by FEMA, and without flood insurance and with little income, the family couldn't afford to even patch the hole the hurricane created in the home's roof.
So Betzabe, who was 8 in 2017, took pencil to paper and asked Santa to fix her roof. Her teacher shared the letter which was posted to Facebook, and within days, people were donating to a GoFundMe page created to help the Gomez family.
Thousands of dollars were donated, but the family didn't know they had a limited amount of time to pull the money from the public account. So GoFundMe returned donations to the donors, and the Gomez family was left without the much-needed help.
In 2018, Harris County was able to match the family with a grant-funded program that helps residents rebuild their homes after natural disasters.
But as we shared in November 2019, the process to apply and get approved, was slow, time-consuming and frustrating. Betzabe, now 11, had lost hope in Santa, but still prayed God would help the family. Her father, Martin, was very sick and on dialysis. He survived a number of strokes, and for the last 6 years, was surviving off disability and in need of constant care and attention.
In November 2019, after several calls to Harris County's Community Services Department, KHOU 11 confirmed construction on the Gomez home would begin in the next 60 days.
Paperwork and the death of Betzabe's father delayed the start of construction, which is now slated to begin this week.
"I lost my husband, my partner of 22 years in marriage," said Maria Gomez as she went through her property one more time ahead of demolition.
Maria Gomez said she's trying to keep it together for Betzabe and her siblings.
"She tells me, 'Mom, dad will stay with me, right?' I say, 'Yes. He’s in our hearts, in our minds, in our beautiful memories,'" Maria Gomez said.
The home's design, paint colors and cabinets were chosen with Mr. Gomez in mind. The family said his spirit will be felt throughout their new home. It should be done 90 days after the first day of construction. The program that's covering construction is also paying for a hotel room for the Gomez family.
And with that, Maria Gomez finds hope.
"While we are together, we’re going to come out ahead," she said.
It's bittersweet news for a family that continues to adjust to live after Harvey.