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Torrent of troubles

Displaced by broken pipes, family navigates foreclosure laws

Kerri Gibeault and her son Brandon Lamoureux, 10, outside the Peck Street house they were recently forced out of by a water leak. Gus Steeves. (click for larger version)
January 12, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — Kerri Gibeault is in a pickle.

At about 11 a.m. Monday, Jan. 4, it started "raining in my bathroom, bedroom and kitchen" because a frozen pipe in a vacant apartment above hers burst. About two hours later, after Gibeault had unsuccessfully tried to find a way to shut the water off herself, the fire department and Health Director James Morin had to do so at the street. Doing so, she said, also shut off the heat and rendered the home legally uninhabitable.

"That's understandable," she noted. "Jim Morin gave me two hours to get some belongings and find a place to stay. He said he was coming to put up the papers saying it was condemned."

Today, 10 days later, the triple-decker at 29 Peck St. still sits empty, a few toys on the porch, a snowed-in van that obviously hasn't moved in a while in the yard, blinds at half-mast in the windows, and a black cat sauntering across the property. Gibeault, her sons, granddaughter and pets hope to return there soon, noting they've lived in the house for nearly two years.

"Everybody's just washing their hands of me and my small children and animals in midwinter," she claimed. After a week in limbo, she said a lawyer, Jose Otero of the Mass. Justice Project (which she repeatedly referred to as the "Justice Department"), advised her to file for a restraining order against the town and the bank in Worcester Housing Court.

See Thursday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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