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To Stay or Go? The Dilemma Facing Those Left Homeless by Sandy

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Residents return to destroyed homes in Rockaway, Queens. (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

Many people displaced by Sandy have been staying with family and friends, but a month after the storm they're finding their housing situation — or lack thereof — to be increasingly difficult.

“It’s disconcerting sometimes,” said Rev. Darren Ferguson, a pastor at Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Far Rockaway. “You want to reach for something, and it’s just not there. It’s also difficult because you don’t want to feel like you’re inconveniencing someone else. But whenever you have someone else staying in your home, it’s an inconvenience.”

Rev. Ferguson, his wife and 23-year-old daughter, have been staying with a minister from his church for the past three weeks after two lower levels of their home were destroyed during the storm. He said he was grateful for having a place to stay but also missed his home.

“You just want to go home,” he said.” I just have that feeling every day. I just want to go home. Sleep in my own bed.”

Close to 2,500 households are staying in hotels with FEMA's transitional sheltering assistance, and around 160 people remain in the city's three interim facilities located in Manhattan, Staten Island and the Bronx.  All 76 evacuation centers that were opened for house people from areas affected by Sandy are now closed.

Some immigrant families say they are willing to deal with inconvenience rather than continue to live with friends and family and overstay their welcome. Gonzalo Mercado, the executive director of a day worker center on Staten Island says they have been returning to their homes, even if they're damaged or don't have heat.

“Usually people go to live with family members who are already in over-crowded conditions,” said Mercado. “Think about having another family. It’s really uncomfortable, not only for them, but for their children.”

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