LUMBERTON — Residents of the Housing Authority of the City of Lumberton are being asked to return to their flooded apartments and remove any items they wish to keep. The housing authority put out a memo this week asking residents to collect their belongings by Friday.
Executive Director Larry Russell said there is some leeway on that deadline — residents who need more time should contact the housing authority at 910-671-8240 or visit the agency’s temporary headquarters at Mohr Plaza, 400 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Lumberton. Anything left in flooded apartments will be thrown out by housing authority staff.
Russell said staff have taken the memo to the county’s emergency shelters and posted it at housing authority sites.
“The quicker they can get out of their units the quicker we can fix them,” Russell said. Russell estimated it will be December or January before the damaged apartments are repaired and ready to be leased again.
Russell said a contractor is working to dry the flooded units and kill any mold. Five of the housing authority’s 12 developments saw flooding during Hurricane Matthew and Russell estimated about 300 units are damaged, although a more precise estimate will be available once the agency’s insurance company finishes its inspections.
“If you leave the unit without properly addressing the moisture, within two or three days the mold comes in,” he said. Health agencies recommend that anything porous — like carpets, upholstery and insulation — saturated by floodwater be discarded. Housing residents only need to salvage what they want to keep. If they have applied for assistance from FEMA and a FEMA inspector has not visited their apartment yet, they should take pictures of any flood damage and losses.
Russell encouraged residents to contact FEMA to apply for housing assistance. That can be done by visiting DisasterAssistance.gov; through the FEMA Mobile App; calling 800-621-3362; or visiting a disaster recovery center, the nearest one being in Lillington. To apply, you will need to provide your Social Security number; the address of the damaged residence; your current address; a telephone number; insurance information; total household income; routing and account numbers for your bank account and the description of flood damage and losses.
Russell also said residents should call the housing authority or come to Mohr Plaza to update their contact information so they can be notified when apartments re-open.
FEMA’s Temporary Shelter Assistance program can put displaced residents in hotels, typically for about two weeks. There are also grants available through the agency for housing assistance.
“TSA is basically to buy everyone time to see if we can find some rentals that are available,” said Rita Egan, media relations specialist with FEMA. Egan says FEMA is working with other agencies to identify potential rental properties, although no concrete plans have been set, and is trying to identify as many housing options in Robeson as it can.
Available rental properties can be found at asd.fema.gov/inter/hportal/home.htm.
Manufactured housing, often referred to as FEMA trailers, are considered a final option, Egan said, in part because of the complexity of finding a site suitable for the homes as well as their residents.
“Manufactured housing is a final option, that’s why were not discussing it. We are looking at every other option before that,” she said.
So far, 12,100 Robeson residents have registered for FEMA assistance and $6,288,710 in assistance has been approved.