For more than 1,000 North Carolinians, the damage from Hurricane Matthew — which hit the state on Oct. 8 and flooded much of the east — goes on and on and on. The News & Observer’s Martha Quillin reported recently on the plight of more than 1,000 people and families who are still homeless nearly four months after the storm.
They are people like Minnie White, staying with her two children in a room at the Battleboro EconoLodge. Her mobile home in Princeville in Edgecombe County was flooded by the Tar River. She’s pretty much given up the idea of ever going back to Princeville, but people prefer, of course, to stay in the area with which they are familiar. For White, however, that preference is hard against reality, and she’s now looking at a wider circle of counties in the area around Rocky Mount.
The 55-year-old White’s determination is admirable: “I’m expanding my horizons. Change is good for you. I’m going to think of it as a mid-life adventure.”
But what a painful adventure for her and those others included in that estimate of the number of people still without homes.
There’s been help. Federal money has been extended through FEMA, the emergency relief agency. Churches and assorted non-profits are still raising money. The state legislature came up with $200 million to help with temporary housing. A task force set up by former Gov. Pat McCrory is going to look at how to spend the money.
But as is often the case months after a crisis of this sort, things slow down in terms of charitable donations, and money already designated can get stuck in the pipeline. McCrory’s task force didn’t vanish when he lost his re-election bid to new Gov. Roy Cooper, but the effort may be stagnated by the transition.
That’s not likely to last now that Cooper, a native of Eastern North Carolina, knows about it.
As always, the poor are hit hardest and suffer the longest in a natural disaster. Their funds obviously are limited, and thus are their choices for new housing.
The N.C. Disaster Relief Fund, which was established after Hurricane Floyd, helps groups buy materials to assist in rebuilding homes for people. But the $750,000 in the fund isn’t being spent because direction from the task force is needed. That makes sense. But Cooper clearly needs to get the task force going soon.
But it’s important to remember that those who still are without housing are likely among the people who lost the most and have the fewest options through which to recover. So private groups and public ones such as the task force must keep going — until Minnie White and others can join in the comeback.