Family homeless after tree falls on Chevy Chase house where they lived
House deemed unsafe for occupancy
A family of six had to leave a Chevy Chase house it rented after a tree fell on the house last month.
Photo by Dana Gerber
A family of six has been without a home after a storm knocked a tree into their rented Chevy Chase house June 27, making it uninhabitable.
Tiffany Velasquez; her husband, José; their four children; their cat; and their 4-week old dog lived in the rented house on Jones Bridge Road for four years.
But after the tree came down and shattered part of the upstairs wall, the county’s Department of Permitting Services deemed the house unsafe to live in.
“At the moment, we have no money on our hands,” Tiffany Velasquez said in an interview. “We’re pretty much homeless.”
After they stayed in one room at a hotel in Fairfax, Va., for three nights, they have been staying with a family member in Silver Spring. They leave most of their belongings in the trunk of their car as they jump between living situations.
There was a severe thunderstorm in the county on June 27, which caused multiple trees to fall and a car to become stranded in high water, according to a tweet from Fire & Rescue services spokesman Pete Piringer.
“All of a sudden, it was raining, and it looked like a tornado. It was even hailing,” Tiffany Velasquez said. “It was horrible. Everything just shattered, the whole wall. Everything inside the house just broke.”
Velasquez’s 5-year-old son, Lucas, was lying in his bed upstairs when the tree came through the wall. He suffered minor injuries.
“It’s very hard, especially on the kids,” she said. “I can see them stressed out, I can see them with their nightmares. … They know what’s going on, but it’s hard to explain to them, exactly.”
They could retrieve some clothes from the house, which is owned by the Lagret Real Estate Agency, but they are otherwise not allowed to enter it. Velasquez said she doesn’t know the extent of the damage.
An owner of the house, Tatyana Baytler, confirmed that there was damage to the property, but declined to comment further.
Jose Velasquez works as a carpenter in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase area, but has not had much work lately due to the pandemic, his wife said. Tiffany is a homemaker and attending South College online to get her bachelor’s degree in psychology. She hopes to get her master’s degree in forensic psychology.
Tiffany started a GoFundMe page for the family to collect money for a deposit on an apartment, but since it has raised less than $2,000, she said it will likely be three or four months until they can find a permanent living situation.
“My mom bought me some cards of Uno, so we’ve been teaching the kids how to play Uno,” she said. “It’s so hard, especially for the kids. They’re so used to being outside and playing and jumping on the trampoline and swimming and everything.”
She added that in addition to money, the family also needs food.
“I just ask that everybody can give prayers,” she said. “If they can reach out in any way to help us, that would be greatly appreciated — with food, or anything like that. … It doesn’t have to be money or anything.”