By CATHERINE DONNELLY
Special to the PRESS
Lila sits in the local Salvation Army office in Port Isabel, getting help recovering from the devastating tornado that ripped through Laguna Heights on May 13.
On that night, when the tornado struck her tiny community without warning, she lost her home and the vehicle she used to get to and from work. She also lost just about all of her possessions except the few things that could be pulled from the wreckage. She is one of the 13 families still facing housing instability since the surprising weather event touched down in her town six months ago.
At first, the families were housed and fed in Port Isabel’s Community Center but were quickly relocated to local hotels with support from the Salvation Army and the County. Like many others, Lila received donations from family, friends, or bosses, and coupled with the savings from the subsidized housing, she could replace her vehicle to make it work more reliably. Replacing her trailer was a little more difficult, but she bought one with payments in August.
When asked, Lila admits that the heavy rains have shown her that the trailer she bought leaks here and there as she points to the air above her head, indicating, “aquí y allá.” Julie Gaucin, Salvation Army Service Extension Regional Coordinator, says that while they’ve made great strides in getting people taken care of, there is still much to do. Many families want to be independent again but are so desperate that they might buy trailers that leak, and there is no way to fix them. Gaucin is working on getting grant money for trailers that are in better shape to help alleviate this problem.
The next problem is that trailer lots are running about $400 a month, and when you add in $150 for electricity, $25 for propane, and $50 for water, more than $600 is coming out of their meager wages in overhead. Many of these families can’t afford it, along with their other everyday expenses. Many of these families have children who go to school, adding another layer of costs that must be met. In the past, families could share lots, but this is not allowed anymore.
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