BRUNSWICK COUNTY,NC (WWAY) — For 9 months now, we’ve told you stories of families struggling and rebuilding since Hurricane Florence. Friday, Legal Aid is trying to ease that process for Brunswick County residents.
Residents say this has been a long 9 months filled with countless road blocks from being unqualified for assistance to not being able to find assistance.
But, Legal Aid’s help gave hope to some residents. One Bolivia woman says she can’t afford to pay $23,000 to repair her home. After months of noes, Shirley Johnson got a yes.
“I didn’t see any damage to my house that was out of norm until probably about January,” Johnson said. “I opened up one of my cabinet drawers and it just fell through. I was like ‘Oh Lord, what’s going on here?'”
Johnson said she immediately called her insurance company, after she started noticing storm damage in her Bolivia home. After 3 months of waiting for an answer, she says she was denied.
“I started reaching out to other people trying to figure it out [what to do and] FEMA was shut down by then so there was no help there,” Johnson said. “Without FEMA, you can’t get any of these other programs that helps rebuild your house.”
Johnson says the Legal Aid North Carolina’s clinic in Brunswick County was the blessing she needed.
“It seems like I’m starting to get somewhere now,” Johnson said.
The outreach clinic offered one-on-one meetings with residents affected by Hurricane Florence to discuss damages and other related issues. Managing Attorney Dale Deese says there’s a desperate need for help in southeastern North Carolina.
“[There is] still a lot of damage in a lot of homes and mold is a big problem , especially given the amount of rain we’ve received over the past 9 months,” Deese said.
Being from eastern North Carolina, Deese says the attorneys empathize with the residents.
“Many of us have our own personal experience with Matthew and Florence and so we bring that kind of empathy when we listen to these folks and their stories,” Deese said. “We empathize with them and we know how they’re feeling because they’ve suffered a great loss.”
Deese says some cases can take 2 weeks to reconcile and others can take months. Either way he says this is experience has been a learning opportunity for the legal team and the residents they serve.
Johnson says walking away from the clinic with an attorney assigned to her case gives her some hope.
“I’m [worried about] getting my hopes up too high just because it has been such a long drawn out process, but I’m thankful to God for this little step here,” Johnson said.