Ruth Janes recently walked to her mailbox and found an envelope she had waited 11 months for.
Inside was a check from B.C.’s Disaster Assistance Fund that she’d been begging for since a landslide on Dec. 1, 2021, forced a flood of dirt and logs into the Silverdale home she and her husband Dean own.
The day forces them out of their homes and takes them on a journey through the icy and Byzantine world of government, nonprofits, and insurance bureaucracy.
But now Ruth has finally got a check from the government to help offset the hundreds of thousands of dollars the couple has spent rebuilding roads and hills, which have also caused widespread flooding after heavy rains. Fraser Valley.
“I was totally surprised when it arrived,” said Ruth, the voice of Frank Sinatra playing in the corporate setting she owns on British Pie’s First Avenue. “The government has not given us any indication that we have been approved. We often feel in the dark.”
Of course, the money is welcome, because so far Ruth and Dean have had to cover all the costs of repairing the area around their home. But the disaster relief checks cover less than 80 percent of what they spent and won’t cover future costs the couple will need to pay to actually make their home livable again.
Eleven months later, the family is still living elsewhere with no actual timetable for returning home.
The same week she received the BC government check, Ruth opened another envelope containing the money. This one came from an insurance company, which was shocking as the couple had previously been told the insurance company would not cover landslides. However, it turns out that while the insurance company doesn’t cover damage from dirt and mud, it does cover damage from the many trees that burst through the house.
“It took them months to tell us that,” Dean said with a hint of bitterness. “They have to separate landslide damage from tree damage. It doesn’t make much sense.”
The couple also received some money from the GoFundMe campaign.
“The guys at Mission are brilliant in all of this,” Dean said.
The couple also received money from the Red Cross, but only after multiple back-and-forth calls.
“As with all agencies, every time you talk to someone, it’s a different person, and they’re asking questions you’ve already answered over and over again,” Ruth said. “They keep asking, ‘Is this a disaster?’ Well, yes. Then they want you to go out and take more pictures of the house.”
Receive a call that changes everything
After 11 months of torture, Ruth can still discuss what happened that day. She was serving tea to customers when her phone rang with a strange Abbotsford number. She barely answered.
It’s the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
A neighbor called the police, who found Ruth. She jumped into the car and ran home, but was stopped near the property due to the danger of a landslide.
“You feel like the whole world is falling apart,” Ruth said.
However, Ruth’s first thought was of the many pets in the house. There are several birds in the house, their cat Alistair and two large dogs Molson and Meko.
All managed to survive.
Ruth called Dean, and it took Dean a moment to realize that if he changed shifts, he could easily go home.
Dean held up his phone and photographed where debris, including trees, went straight through the wall.
“Look where the tree is, I’m going to be stabbed to death,” Dean said.
When Ruth feels overwhelmed by bureaucracy, endless delays, and mounting costs, that’s what she tries to remind herself of.
“No one was killed,” Ruth said. “You have to remember that it could have been worse. There were many others suffering from the floods. Not just us.”
The couple plans to utilize some counseling services to help with what they are going through.
One thing that takes its toll is endless delays and disappointments. Their daughter was married in September and they were unable to host any family. When they need to buy rocks to support the slopes that give way, they have a hard time finding anything because most are rebuilding the Coquihalla Freeway.
“It’s just one thing after another,” Ruth said.
Still, Ruth’s business didn’t miss a day — even during those first horrific weeks.
“Being busy with work actually helps,” she said.
Currently, they have selected a contractor and are working to restore the house. This includes repairing damaged well water systems.
Dean said the disaster exposed the “fragility” of the system in helping victims.
But the slippery slope also gave them hope when they saw how people supported them. One of Ruth’s clients had excavation equipment and put a lot of effort into removing a lot of debris so they could get into the house. Others donated generously to the GoFundMe campaign.
As far as permit approvals go, Mission City has handled it well, the couple said. They also praised MLA Pam Alexis for helping them navigate the provincial system.
“I often say now that we are the luckiest unfortunate family around,” Dean said.
like us Facebook and follow us Twitter.
BC flood weather
<!– View Comments –>