Big bill hits struggling family

A family with a severely autistic daughter could lose their home if they can't raise more than $250,000 to fix their leaking property.

Teachers Devora Busch, 47, and Richard Barry, 59, live in Titirangi, West Auckland, with their three children, including 10-year-old Rheegan who is among New Zealand's highest-needs children.

Rheegan Barry has Pica, a disorder which means she will eat anything, creating life-threatening situations daily.

Her parents spend $1000 a month replacing items she's damaged and now must find $261,000 to reclad their leaking home and find temporary accommodation that is safe for Rheegan while work is carried out.

They bought the house nine years ago for $600,000. But water is now leaking through the walls and into their children's rooms.

Things got worse when Richard was forced to quit his job as a teacher due to severe hearing loss and health difficulties, ending a career of almost 30 years.

"It is dangerous, you can't stay in a leaky home," Busch told the Herald on Sunday.

"We're coping but we are fearful of our future and just need to get it done."

An independent valuer estimates recladding could cost up to $261,000.

Government and council will provide half of the recladding costs under the Financial Assistance Package for eligible owners of leaky homes.

But there will be no compensation for the $130,000 the family expect they will have to spend on renting, plus at least four months of mortgage payments and costs associated with Rheegan's care.

The seriousness of her condition means she is constantly seconds away from choking to death or poisoning at any time.

The family home has been modified with high gates, safety-glass barricading the kitchen and safety locks on all the windows.

Busch quit her job as a teacher to become a fulltime carer, sleeping next to her daughter every night and hasn't had a full night's sleep in 10 years.

"Rheegan needs to be checked on every three minutes, 24 hours a day or she could die," Busch said.

"If she's scared, Rheegan can bite the inside of her cheek and spit blood, she can rip open pillows and blankets and eat the stuffing.

"I think it's going to be an enormous hurdle to find a private landlord who wants to rent to us and to be able to afford that on top of our escalating mortgage and loans to pay for all of this.

"When I found out there was a Givealittle page I felt really embarrassed. It's not in our nature as a family to want to ask for help or to have people know that we are having problems," she said.

The family receives financial aid from the Government and disability organisations, which has allowed them to make the safety modifications to their home.

So far generous Kiwis have donated $12,041.00 to the family's fund.

To donate visit: givealittle.co.nz/saverheeshome

- Herald on Sunday

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