Family left homeless after accident is struggling to find a direction
By J. Chambless
John and Tiffany Rissler, with two of their children, Lydia and Alicia, in front of their condemned home in Honey Brook on July 8.
By John Chambless
A Honey Brook family is homeless and running out of options after a downed utility pole hit the roof of their mobile home on June 29.
Sitting outside their condemned home on Wednesday afternoon, John and Tiffany Rissler could do little but shake their heads as they described how a random accident has upended their lives over the past two weeks.
On June 29 at about 7 p.m., Tiffany said, “We were in the living room, and my parents and my brother were in the bedroom. We heard this big boom and the electric went out. I ran back to the bedroom, and my parents were on the bed, underneath the drywall from the roof. My brother had a big bruise and scrape on his leg. I went outside and saw the pole.”
Tiffany called 911 as neighbors gathered on the rutted cul-de-sac to take photos of a truck that had entered the neighborhood to deliver pipes for a well in the area. The driver had clipped a low-hanging utility wire, bringing down two poles – one which fell to the ground, and the other one which was sheared off above the ground and landed on the Rissler's home. The oil inside the transformer leaked down through the hole in the roof, soaking everything in the room, including the family's clothes.
For Tiffany, the date was especially poignant. Her former husband committed suicide five years ago on June 26. A township inspector condemned the damaged home and locked the doors on July 6. While the trucking company, R&L Carriers, agreed to put the family up in a motel, that ended on July 9. A credit card with $600 from the Red Cross has also mostly run out.
On the afternoon of July 8, when John and Tiffany and two of their four children, Lydia and Alicia, returned to see if they could salvage something from their home, they found that someone had broken in through a window and stolen their TV.
John Rissler grimly pointed to a plastic bucket that still sat underneath the window. “It's not our bucket, so somebody brought it over to stand on and get through the window,” he said. The couple called police, who had not arrived 45 minutes after their call.
While Lydia and Alicia entertained themselves by getting in and out of the family's minivan, John and Tiffany admitted they were at a loss. Since the home is condemned, they have 30 to 60 days to have it demolished – at their expense.
“The only income I get is my son's disability,” Tiffany said. “My parents work, but everything they had in cash went for food and gas, and medication for my mom.”
A referral through Connect Points in West Chester will provide emergency shelter, but will likely split the family up into separate housing in West Chester and Coatesville, Tiffany said. At this point, that may be the only option.
“We could stay in a tent because it's summer, but we don't even have enough money for that,” Tiffany said.
The landlord of Brandywine Terrace, Eugene Egan, Jr., has told the family there's nothing he can do for them, John said. The rundown park was listed for sale in April 2015 at a price of $2 million, chiefly because it sits on 59 acres of land near Honey Brook.
The trucking company has offered the family a settlement of $2,500. But R&L Carriers, an Ohio-based shipping company, has a lengthy list of dismal online reviews, with customers calling them dishonest, uncaring and rude. “The trucking company's trying to say it's the landlord's fault, and PP&L's fault,” Tiffany said.
“The landlord and the trucking company are playing the blame game,” John said. “They're saying, 'He did it,' 'No, he did it.'”
There are yellow plastic ties on the replaced utility wire over Brandywine Terrace to make it more visible now, but there is no sign of anyone coming to help the Risslers.
“It's like a nightmare you can't wake up from,” Tiffany said. “Nobody wants to help. Ever since my children's dad committed suicide, we've gone downhill. We get back up and then something else takes us down. I believe that God's testing us to see if we can get through this.”
The Risslers have lived in Brandywine Terrace for two years. “I'd love to get out of this park, but we've got nowhere to go. And after all this, to have somebody steal our TV,” John said, his voice trailing off.
Lydia and Alicia could still smile as they chased each other around the yard, but Tiffany quietly admitted, “My dream is to get settled in a different place and just have some clothes for the kids to start school in the fall. Right now, I don't know what we're going to do. We've just got to stay strong and keep our heads high and we can do it.”
The Risslers have set up an online account for donations. Visit www.gofundme.com/yxkt3a2.
To contact Staff Writer John
Chambless, email firstname.lastname@example.org.