Despite considerable damage to their garage and barn, which houses most of their hundreds of livestock, it appeared their house had come out largely unscathed. Shingles had been torn from the roof and now they had to deal with the insurance company, but on first glance that was all.
But as the season pressed on, more and more problems were revealed. Rain was penetrating the roof and wind was now getting in around the windows, a sign the structure may have shifted in the storm.
The family tried getting the insurance agent to come out for another inspection, but more than six months on, it was too late. The family of eight was forced from their home as the roof started to collapse.
After two major winter storms in December, the weight of the snow started to take its toll on the house. The roof trusses gave out and the walls started to fold in on themselves.
“The floor and ceiling started to bend,” said André. « We knew we had to get out of there and do something.”
They moved their family out from under danger and now the couple and their six children, ages 6 to 15, are living in a rented trailer on their property.
Without a roof and poor protection from tarps hastily thrown over the structure, water damage has permeated the house, requiring a complete gutting of the once perfectly livable home.
Further delays from the insurance company and issues dealing with the contractors initially hired to fix the roof, have forced André to step away from his small drywalling business and focus full-time on repairing the home, putting a strain on the family’s finances.
Natacha has also scaled back her work, and the kids, normally homeschooled, have had to start going to classes at school, which is a difficult adjustment for them.
Fighting back tears as he stands outside the dilapidated structure that was once a loving home for his kids, André said he has to do whatever it takes to get his kids back in their rooms, playing with their Lego and dolls and getting the privacy teenagers crave.
A dream becomes a nightmare
Having grown up in Ottawa, Natacha and André dreamed of moving their growing family out to the country and building themselves something of a homestead. In 2020, they took the leap and purchased the house on a modest parcel of land with a barn and an old decommissioned grain silo. For the young family, it was idyllic.
The former city-dwellers took to the farm life with aplomb. Chickens, pigs, goats and ducks joined the family along with innumerable barn cats and a growing brood of Great Pyrenees livestock dogs, which are for sale, if anyone is interested.
Brigitte Tessier, a longtime friend of Natacha and André said seeing them need help is hard to watch. She decided to set up a GoFundMe after seeing one of Natacha’s Facebook posts, the first to really reveal the family’s dire situation.
According to Tessier, the couple were reticent about asking for help, not wanting to be a burden on others. With the move to the country an effort to be more self-sustaining, relying on the community is a hard pill to swallow.
“They are usually the ones offering a hand,” Tessier said.
But financially, the family is at the brink. Accepting help was the only option.
“It’s embarrassing. It fills you with shame,” said André, describing how it feels to be unable to provide for their kids. “But I have to set that aside. I have to do what is best for my babies.”
Finding light in dark times
Despite the difficult circumstances, the family remains positive. They joke about some of the silver linings, like discovering the old farm houses’ original wood floor beams still in good condition after ripping out all the drywall.
“We are probably going to keep those exposed,” said Natacha with a chuckle. “So that’s nice.”
They are grateful the barn and garage are repaired enough to protect their livestock. As the weather warms up, the cats will be able to safely return to the barn and at least the family won’t have to worry about them as much.
“At least we’re fortunate enough that everyone was safe and no one got hurt,” Natacha said.
The work continues
Finding trusses, getting the roof up and keeping the weather out is the priority. André said he doesn’t think the structure can handle taking on any more water.
“If I can keep the rain and water out, finishing the framing and getting the drywall up will be easy,” said André. “Then I can get my family back in their home.”
Meanwhile, André continues to clean up the mess, ripping out moldy, rotting wood and insulation and securing the internal framing.
Though just a fraction of what the family will need to finish the work, the GoFundMe’s goal of $15,000 will at least cover the costs associated with the roof trusses as André and Natacha wait for the insurance company to answer their calls for help.
Those looking to support the family can go to https://gofund.me/8d9559a3.