- Associated Press - Saturday, June 4, 2016

HOUMA, La. (AP) - A former Houma police officer and his mother risk losing a more than 100-year-old house in their family’s history to condemnation after claiming they don’t have enough money to repair the extensive damage that it sustained during a fire.

In the morning of July 30, 2014, Gerald Hite was at a local hospital waiting for his 70-year-old mother Mary to come out of surgery when he learned that their one-floor house, 220 Bond St., had been ravaged by an electrical fire, confirming one of his mother’s worst fears.

It took only about 15 minutes to extinguish the flames, but fire officials determined that the fire and smoke damage was severe. The house was not insured, Hite said.

From the outside, the original green-white wooden structure at the corner of Bond and Lafayette streets still looks like a normal house. But a step inside reveals that its insides have been gutted out, with a handful of ruined appliances and furniture strewn about on an unstable floor. Housing officials claim it will take about $80,000 to restore the house to its former state.

“The thing that I’m trying to do is, at least, make the structure sound to where we can have electricity inside the house until we can work on the other things,” Hite said.

Elevating the house and replacing the roof are next in line.

A regular attendee of Terrebonne Parish condemnation hearings, Hite has tried to salvage the house bit by bit to show accountability for the property. He has torn down all the soot-covered walls and cleared out most of the debris inside.

“But I’m disabled right now, so I can’t work like I wanna work and do the things that I need to do,” the 25-year law enforcement veteran added. “They know I’m disabled, and I’m limited, but at least I’m trying.”

Hite worked for the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Nicholls State University Police and the parish Juvenile Detention Center until he had to quit because of a back injury.

“I went to a lot of fires as law enforcement, but you never expect it to happen to you,” he said.

In the last year or so that Hite began repairs, he said that multiple tools, a generator, a heater and prized heirloom kitchenware were stolen from the property. No suspects have been arrested.

And now, with the threat of condemnation looming over their heads, mother and son fear that they may never be able to come home. The two have been living with a friend on Cypress Village Drive for nearly two years.

“I just want to be back in my house,” said Mary Hite, who lived on Bond Street for over 50 years. Like her son, she used to work in local law enforcement, at one point even serving as the female warden of the downtown Terrebonne Parish jail in the 1980s.

As she will soon need home dialysis for a severe kidney infection, she does not want to impose any further on her friend.

“There’s just nothing like your own,” she added.

Mary and Gerald Hite are seeking donations in cash or in kind to help rebuild their house. Materials such as lumber, drywall, plywood, nails, electrical tools and household items are also appreciated. Contact Gerald Hite at 209-4146 for information.

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Information from: The Courier, https://www.houmatoday.com

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