OKEECHOBEE — A local family is struggling after multiple hardships hit at once. Steve and Amanda Windham and their three children are living in a shed in what was once their backyard.
Though Hurricane Ian did not do a lot of damage in Okeechobee County, to those it did hit, it was devastating. The Windhams’ home was irreparably damaged by a tornado, spun off during the hurricane. Their back porch was torn from the house, leaving a hole in the side of the residence. “It’s been a bad six, seven, eight months for us,” said Steve.
"We were in our home when the tornado hit. It took our back porch off and threw it into the front yard.."
Amanda is in Stage five Renal Failure. This is something she has been dealing with for almost 16 years and takes dialysis several times a week. As if this were not enough for a family to handle, their 3-year-old was recently diagnosed with autism.
The couple also has two teens, a 14-year-old son and a 17-year-old daughter. The daughter dropped out of school to help take care of her little brother while her dad takes care of her mom — transporting her to and from dialysis and doctor appointments and helping her with daily tasks as she is no longer able to even walk.
After the hurricane damaged their home, the family’s insurance company paid off with no problem. The problems began when they could not find an apartment to rent anywhere. The insurance was willing to pay a certain amount, but because there were no available apartments, they had to stay in a motel. This used the designated amount of money up in two months instead of the six months it was intended to cover.
When that money ran out, the family tried staying in their damaged home for a while but when their new mobile home was ready to be moved in, the old one was removed.
This left them with nowhere to stay until the new mobile home was set up and ready for occupancy.
Unfortunately, the new home had several major defects from the manufacturer, and they were not able to move in until those damages were repaired. Steve said they had no other options but to move into the shed in their backyard. There is no running water but there is electricity, he explained.
The family must ask friends if they want to shower or wash clothes.
They are waiting for a contractor sent by the manufacturer to fix things so they can move in. For months now, the contractors have come but stay an hour and leave.
Until the new home is repaired, the family will stay in the shed because they have no other choice.
As a lineman, Steve is having a hard time finding work, mostly because he is not able to drop everything and travel where he is needed. Even if he could find work, he said how would his family function without him home? His wife goes to dialysis three times a week and cannot care for herself. Steve said he has never asked for help in his life, but when a friend insisted he tell his story, he agreed for the sake of his family.
"I've always been independent. If we can't do it, we don't need it. I've never had to do anything like this before. I'm to the point where I want to give up, biut I can't give up because of my wife and kids."
If anyone would like to help, Steve has cash app. It is $SteveW0021