Wilmington Red Cross shelter to close, several storm victims still without permanent housing


NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY)  — Many of those in New Hanover County are back to normal following Florence. The storm hit us nearly two months ago.  In all that time there are still people without a place to call home.

Florence left them with nearly nothing, damaging their homes. Now the Red Cross has to close up its final shelter with several people uncertain where they will end up.

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“Every ‘no’ is a heartbreak,” said Dawn Smith just outside the Christ the King Church shelter.

That’s all Smith and her family have heard alongside the dozens of people who have had to call this Red Cross shelter home for weeks.

“Nobody is willing to put forth to get these people out of this shelter that has to close because Red Cross provides only temporary shelter they don’t provide long-term shelter,” said Smith referring to complexes and landlords.

She has been in the shelter for eight weeks now. She has three teenage kids, some with disabilities. The shelter is set to close Friday at 1 P.M. still with several people like Smith and her kids who have no permanent home.

“These families are going to wind up in a homeless shelter,” Smith said.

That’s not because of the lack of effort. Multiple agencies including the Red Cross have worked for weeks to get local landlords to accept these people.

“We had an affordable housing crisis before the storm and now it’s just exasperated by the fact that we have had more than a thousand units go offline,” said Cape Fear Red Cross Executive Director James Jarvis.

It won’t be the homeless shelter yet for Smith’s family. The Red Cross was able to work with FEMA to get them a hotel for two more weeks.

“It’s still not enough time,” Smith said, “By the time you fill out rental applications and wait for approval you’ve spent three or four days. By the time you do that three or four times your two weeks is gone.”

The clock is ticking for her family. As it is for those like Darius Waddell who needs to find a handicap accessible space.

“I feel like I’m at the bottom right now. I feel like the only chance there is to go up,” Waddell said. “I’ve never been through this.”

Thursday morning nearly 40 families had little to no options. Red Cross volunteers cut that down to 5 who still need a home heading into the final day.

“It’s hard today not knowing what tomorrow is going to bring,” said Smith.

People like Smith are not just trying to apply with no support. Smtih tells me groups like Back@Home support these storm victims and pledge six months paid rent and utilities to landlords who accept them.

Jarvis with the Red Cross says they will keep the shelter open until they find everyone a “viable option” for housing.