As residents in Fairfield Harbour clean up debris and make repairs to their homes, FEMA Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams are going door to door helping people register for disaster assistance and providing information on the types of resources they may be eligible for.
Fairfield Harbour is located across the Neuse River from New Bern. It’s a quiet, gated community of 3,000 people made up of mostly retirees. Since Hurricane Florence, some progress in recovery has been made. But trees are still down on the golf course and in yards, and the power is still out for some residents. A few boats are scattered here and there on marshland and in people’s yards. The most striking sight… sides of the streets are lined with mountains of debris stretched for miles.
“You can look at the pile on the street there, that’s my life, my life is out there heaped up in one big stinking heap.”
James Suda has lived on Barbary Coast Drive for a decade. During Hurricane Florence, the floodwater rose past his window sills inside his home. When he came back to survey the damage a few days after the storm, he saw the four-foot waterline in his garage.
“Every piece of furniture, lost. Every fabric or paper thing, lost. You can save glass or things like that if it didn’t break.”
On this day, Suda was cleaning out a storage shed while construction crews ripped out his house’s subflooring. All of the damaged appliances and cabinets have been removed and the drywall and insulation are gone. Mold is visible in the garage.
“It’s an emotional experience, it’s a physical experience. I’m 68 years-old, I’ll be 69 and this isn’t my idea of retirement exactly but, it happens to you and what can you do.”
For now, Suda and his wife staying with neighbors. He says it will probably take six to eight months to fix their home.
“A lot of people are 50-80 miles away in a motel having coming back and forth every day because what are you going to do? Other ones got trailers, they bought trailers to put them in their driveways. But again, it takes money to do this. If you don’t have money to do this, if you don’t have money, I worry about the poor people, they are the ones that need help, really.”
Suda has home insurance and flood insurance to help cover the $14,000 expense to have the crews gut their house. He says he registered for disaster assistance with FEMA when they came by his home.
“I’ve heard there’s a lot of people around here who are just frozen in position, because they can’t deal with it, they just can’t handle it emotionally and they don’t know what to do. So that’s why come around knock on your door to see if you need help or anything.”
Since last week, FEMA Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams have been going door to door in Fairfield Harbour helping people register for disaster assistance and providing information on the types of resources they may be eligible for. Crew Leader Elisse Goldstein-Clark is organizing the crew of a half dozen FEMA specialists.
“Our teams are finding out if they have registered with FEMA, and if not, we can register them. And if they have registered with FEMA, we are also able to do updates and inquires and help to troubleshoot problems they may be having with applications.”
The team split up into groups of two and went from house to house on both sides of Barbary Coast Drive talking with residents about the destruction to their homes.
“This was epic, this is heartbreaking to see this. The damage and the debris that people are putting out, it’s extensive and it’s heartbreaking.”
While the homes on Barbary Coast Drive aren’t directly on the water, many were flooded when storm surge from the Neuse River pushed the water into the creek and canals surrounding the neighborhood. Fairfield Harbour resident Michael Carl was sitting on a folding lawn chair outside his home with his dog Otis waiting for contractors to arrive. During Hurricane Florence, he had 46 inches of water wash into his garage.
“It didn’t quite make it into the house but everything got damp.”
Carl has been ripping out drywall and flooring and pulling out insulation from underneath his home. The moisture also ruined cabinets in his kitchen and bathrooms. He says his wife registered for FEMA disaster assistance right after the storm, but they were denied.
“We’re waiting to hear from our different companies. Our insurance company, flood insurance is pretty well taking care of us. I don’t know if we’ll get the full amount back, but any little bit helps.”
Carl says they didn’t qualify for food assistance through D-SNAP or Temporary Sheltering Assistance, which reimburses the cost of staying at a motel.
“I don’t know if it’s because we made too much, or we didn’t have enough receipts for housing.”
After speaking with the Disaster Survivor Assistance Team, Carl says he’s going to file an appeal with FEMA to try to get disaster assistance. While each person’s situation is different, crew Leader Elisse Goldstein-Clark says there’s some confusion among Fairfield Harbour residents who have flood insurance through FEMA as to whether or not they are registered to receive disaster assistance.
“Because the envelope actually has the FEMA logo on them, they think they’re automatically registered in many cases with FEMA because they filed with their flood insurance. But they also need to register with FEMA on that 1-800 number or online, for disaster insurance. That’s separate from their insurance.”
FEMA plans to continue visiting homes in Fairfield Harbour. Residents can also visit the disaster recovery center in New Bern at the former Eckerd Drugstore Monday through Saturday from 9am-7pm and on Sunday from 9am-1pm.