Tornado survivors say they can't use vouchers

Errica McNeil

May 5, 2011 9:00:00 PM PDT
The temporary shelter on the campus of North Carolina State University closed Friday and many displaced people are scrambling. The Red Cross handed out vouchers for rental housing but some survivors say they can't use them.

Errica McNeil thought the piece of paper was as good as money for a permanent home.

"This states that they will pay the first month and the deposit," she said.

The apartment McNeill is trying to rent requires an $850 deposit and the first month's rent. She took the required form, verified with the leasor's signature, to Red Cross workers at NC State but got the cold shoulder.

"Next thing you know everybody started going in corners, so I was like what's going on, you know?" McNeill asked.

She says they told her they couldn't help her because FEMA had already given her $1,700.

"They would say you got FEMA, and I'm like, but FEMA doesn't have anything to do with this," McNeil said. "You know you told us to apply for FEMA."

McNeil says she used the FEMA money for food, gas and other incidentals.

A Red Cross official told ABC11 Eyewitness News McNeil's FEMA aid was specifically designated for housing so they can't duplicate it.

"I mean, they should have explained it more better and gave us more resources if that's not what was going to happen," McNeil said.

Tornadoes destroyed her mobile home in Stony Brook.

In the three weeks following, she moved from a shelter at Heritage High School to the graduate student apartments at NC State.

Now, forced to leave again, this time she, her two daughters and a grandson have nowhere else to turn.

"It's just like you can't trust people you just don't know, you thinking you going to get the help but you're not really getting it.

McNeil says she's not the only one in experiencing this problem. Several other families are facing the same dilemma. McNeil says she also received $850 from the Salvation Army but she still does not have enough money to secure an apartment.

After hearing about McNeil's situation, Red Cross officials contacted ABC 11 with the following statement:

Unmet housing needs should be reported to FEMA or Red Cross for referral to local resources. Any clients that are unsure of what to do, should call for counseling.


Red Cross:1-800-Red Cross (733-2767) or their local Red Cross office.

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