Virginia teacher talks about walking away from her home

Rebecca Derharoutian

A Shenandoah Valley Public School teacher has had to rebuild her life in Virginia after a hurricane left her life, and her home, in ruins.

Rebecca Derharoutian is a special education teacher at W.W. Robinson and Central High School. She transferred on July 28 to Virginia, leaving her home in Beaumont, Texas. She got the job in Virginia at the last minute and packed a couple of bags of clothes, anticipating coming back to pack up the rest of her possessions and sell her home.

Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in August and robbed her of her home – the place that was her sanctuary for her and her sweet dog, Dr. Ciel Lagauche.

The home, which she has a mortgage on, had to be bulldozed after floodwaters remained over the roof for a week.

“It’s just a slab now,” she said. “I do feel a bit lost.”

She has also been trying to help her mother who also lost her home. Her mom, with nothing left in Texas, is considering moving to Virginia.

The routine of her job in Virginia helps keep Derharoutian’s mind busy, keeping thoughts of Texas momentarily at bay. The community here has embraced her, which has helped her move forward, she said.

“Everyone here is so supportive as well. I was more fortunate than most because I had such a lovely community to which I could return,” Derharoutian said.

Derharoutian, like so many homeowners, had homeowners insurance (including for wind) but did not have flood insurance.

“FEMA wasn’t really any help,” she said.

She would have to take out a loan to rebuild her home, essentially paying two mortgages. Unable to afford rebuilding, she had to let the mortgage in Texas go into foreclosure.

Here in Virginia, where she rents, she is taking it day by day.

Derharoutian is slowly replacing items as she needs them.

Even those with flood insurance have not had an easy time, she said.

“People (like my mom) have had issues with their insurance. The insurance company will offer expedited help and not require itemized lists, but then they just guess the assets according to the number of rooms. They depreciate all contents. People who do that are only getting a small fraction of what they lost,” she said.

If you don’t expedite the claim this way the insurance company demands homeowners provide receipts for proof of all the items, and its cost, in the home. They also say it will take a very long time to receive a check, Derharoutian said.

Experiencing the process has been frustrating.

“It really does make one want to scream – and I have repeatedly,” she said with a laugh.