Flooded homeless need a place to go

Housing for flood survivors is a growing concern in Schoharie County because it won’t be long before

Joni and Don Loucks were waiting for an insurance adjuster to check out the damage to their home on Junction Road Tuesday. They had been told by a code inspector that it’s unlivable because the Schoharie Creek lifted it off the foundation and dropped it back where it sat.

The creek churned in the background as they described their plight. They’ve been renting two rooms in a hotel — one for them and one for their son.

They can’t find an apartment because they have two dogs, “like family,” Don Loucks said, and they won’t leave them.

One dog is old and blind, but so far, they can’t find a landlord that will allow pets.

Keeping tabs

Schoharie County is asking residents who were displaced to contact the county so a number can be placed on the need for temporary housing. Those affected can call 296-8607 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

“Nobody will rent to you,” Joni Loucks said.

At $800 a month for both rooms — one dog is allowed in each room — Joni said it won’t take long before the family is homeless.

“We’re going broke quick,” she said.

Housing for flood survivors is a growing concern in Schoharie County because it won’t be long before the waning summer turns into a cold and icy Northeast winter.

Flood survivors are scattered about. Some have been staying with friends or family and it’s unclear exactly where everybody went.

But Schoharie County spokeswoman Karen Miller said county officials are hoping to get residents to call them so they can get a list and determine whether some form of temporary housing may be necessary.

Options are all in “talking stages” at this point. If there’s a need, Miller said, the county wants to explore possibly making some temporary housing at the Summit Shock facility in the town of Summit.

The upcoming winter season and uncertainty surrounding people’s plans are prompting the call for information.

“We’re concerned about the housing as the weather gets cooler,” Miller said.

The county has also mentioned to federal officials it’s possible trailers could be needed to get people through the winter.

How to help

There are many ways to help the people, schools and organizations hurt by the floods. Here are some links and ideas:

Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesman Chris Mckniff said the agency hasn’t gotten to the point where it would consider a “direct housing mission,” and he’s urging residents to make sure to register with FEMA.

All situations are different among individuals, but the agency will pay rent for displaced residents and there are available apartments, albeit not necessarily close to home.

FEMA’s Individual Assistance grants will pay roughly two months’ rent and more if displaced residents have a plan established for permanent housing in the near future.

Individual assistance teams are placing calls to people who register with FEMA to see if there is a need for housing, he said.

“If you haven’t registered it’s very difficult for us to help,” Mckniff said.

The scope of lost housing still isn’t clear.

In the town of Schoharie outside the devastated village of Schoharie, Code Enforcement Officer Pete Irwin said there were 42 homes damaged by flooding, 16 sustained major damage and 12 have since been demolished.

He said this week he’s dropping fliers off at houses to describe for owners what their options are.

They might rebuild and incorporate flood mitigation strategies in the construction such as putting the boiler and other infrastructure upstairs instead of in the basement.

Or they could demolish their house and rebuild on the other side of the street.

Irwin said he’s not condemning any properties — that’s a lengthy administrative process.

If he did, it would simply leave flooded-out homeowners powerless altogether, he said.

“I’m leaving people to decide. They’re trying to make a family decision on what to do next,” Irwin said.

Esperance Supervisor Earl Van Wormer III said it’s unclear where all the people went, but he estimates between 80 and 100 residences where people lived got flooded in the town alone.

About 20 homes were destroyed on Priddle Road and 11 homes in a mobile home park on Junction Road were wiped out altogether, he said.

At least 18 other homes along the creek on Junction Road sustained severe flood damage, as did 30 Esperance homes on U.S. Route 20.

The village of Esperance saw 21 homes flooded, with at least eight destroyed on Steuben Street, Van Wormer said.

The urgency to help displaced residents as well as those with damage just grows as the cold weather approaches, he said.

“First of all, some of these people need to fix their homes up or they’re going to have some freezing issues,” Van Wormer said.

“We’ve got water and moisture in their house, so what happens when it starts freezing?” he said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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