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Residents of Happiness House in Canandaigua remain displaced as work to repair flooding damage



Canandaigua N.Y. — Major flooding devastated neighborhoods in Canandaigua in July.


One of the hardest hit spots was Happiness House, a nonprofit which offers housing to people with disabilities or those with low-income status.

The flash flooding caused about two feet of water and mud to pour into two buildings on the property, destroying a total of 17 units.

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"It was scary, especially when the water started coming in," said resident William Laffler. "We went and put all my towels underneath the door to try and stop the water coming in."

Laffler was displaced from his first-floor apartment, and has been staying with his home health aide, Julia Hale.

Meantime, Happiness House has been paying for other displaced residents to stay at a Microtel in Geneva, while others went to stay with friends or family.

Happiness House CEO Darrell Whitbeck estimates it caused $1.3 to $1.6 million in damages and it could take months to repair.

"We have lost two feet of drywall, the flooring had to come out of both buildings. All of the appliances were destroyed," Whitbeck said. "The counters are destroyed throughout the buildings. The amount of mud that was deposited throughout the buildings was significant."

As a result, Happiness House has had to terminate the leases of its first-floor tenants, who remain displaced, so they can find more permanent housing.

"As we are going into a prolonged period of time, the determination is that individuals should have access to, through their subsidies, an appropriate house, an appropriate living situation for folks, and in order to do that, individuals had to be released from their leases so they could access or engage in appropriate long term settings," Whitbeck said.

According to Happiness House leaders, its property management company, Providence Housing, has been working with residents to offer them housing in its other apartment buildings, and several have been placed.

Some residents, like Laffler, are still exploring their options.

"I don’t know what to do next," he said.

"It is just hard, because nobody is prepared for anything like this," Hale explained. "There is a waiting list for anything that is government funded."

The Center for Disability Rights is also assisting some displaced residents. They'll be able to reapply to move back in to Happiness House once the repairs are complete, but the nonprofit is still determining how long repairs could take.

"We are hopeful that folks will be able to come back who are able to," Whitbeck said. "Some of the apartment complexes have been fantastic in allowing folks to go month-to-month so folks can come back to us."

Happiness House has applied for for funding from FEMA and also hopes to receive some assistance in small business loans.

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