Sonya Black and her family live in an RV behind their house. They boil water for cooking and bathing. Their power comes from drop cords connected to a breaker box on a specially installed power pole in their backyard.
Black and her family of five lived in a hotel for eight months after Hurricane Florence. When that became infeasible financially and logistically, the family moved into an RV that friends donated to them. They have been living there ever since. “We were preparing to go to a homeless shelter because we ran out of money,” she said. “It’s like camping. We’re living out of suitcases.”
“We’re going to see what we can do to get things moving ahead,” Rep. Phil Shepard said as he listened to the Blacks’ experience in the storm and since. “Sometimes it’s just people realizing that people are watching what’s going on.”
The Blacks had evacuated before the storm, but its evidence was abundant. Sonya said, “We came back two weeks later, and everything had already mildewed and molded over.”
Sonya and her husband together described the damage from the storm. “It rained hard for a complete week,” she said. “The shingles never blew off, but the rain went under the shingles, saturated everything inside.”
“It never broke the shingles; they laid back down,” her husband James added. “There was no physical or visual damage you could see to the roof.”
“Then the ceilings fell,” Sonya continued. “Ceilings fell in the sewing/craft room, the living room, and the kitchen. The den had gotten wet from where the water had permeated through, and it flooded five feet in the basement. The sump pump went out because the power went out. “
They tore down walls themselves and hired a rapid-response disaster company to dry out the home.
A contractor they hired to do repairs took the money and left the house unfinished. The Blacks learned that the contractors were fraudulent, but they ultimately decided not to sue. Instead, Sonya and James started a GoFundMe page to replace the insulation and the floors in their home and simultaneously applied to the ReBuild NC program. Once approved, they were told they had to stop working on their home. Now, almost three years later, they are still waiting for their repair work to go to bid.
The (now) six members of the family are doing what they can to manage until work begins on their home and they are eligible for Temporary Relocation Assistance. Two sons live with Sonya and James in the RV, and one of them took a job at Chick-fil-A to help with finances. Their daughter and grandson are living in Virginia because there’s no room in the RV. Sonya is operating her soap-making business out of a shed on their property. “It’s half the size of the basement I used to work in,” she said. “Plus, I lost the room in the house I used as a store.”
Sonya is clearly exasperated. “There needs to be better organization when it comes to ReBuild NC,” she said. “We kept calling, and we would only get ‘waiting on approval.’ Give me something better than that. What are you waiting on? It’s things like that that have us frustrated and have lost trust because we’re a family of six doing everything that we can, and it’s hard.”
She added: “I’m ready for it to be over. All we’re waiting on is sheetrock. Why is it taking so long? They have floors and materials from their GoFundMe, all we need is help to make it happen.”
“There needs to be better organization
when it comes to Rebuild NC”Sonya Black