RALEIGH — Hurricane Matthew refugees stuck in motels and working toward a permanent home have been given more time to make the move.
The Transitional Shelter Assistance program has helped hundreds of Robeson County families who lost their homes during the storm that ravaged the county in October find shelter in local motels. The program was scheduled to close Jan. 7. It has been extended to Feb. 17 for people who can show substantive efforts toward finding a more permanent home.
The request to extend the program was made by North Carolina leaders this past week. The extension request was approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency earlier this week.
“This is not a blanket extension, people need to be working,” said Ray Perez, a FEMA spokesman. “The state and we here in Robeson County need to continue to work towards finding more permanent homes.”
Hurricane Matthew flooded thousands of homes and forced as many as 5,000 people into temporary housing provided by FEMA. Hundreds still can’t go home because their houses are condemned or were destroyed. Many of those people still are staying at motels along Interstate 95.
Case managers are working with the families still in motels, but there is a shortage of livable properties around the county. Last week Robeson County Department of Social Services sent out a plea to local property owners with rental vacancies to make themselves known in an effort to find more permanent housing for storm victims.
“There are still over 400 families from Robeson County that are displaced and living in hotels,” a DSS statement reads in part. “These families have been confined to motel rooms for over 120 days and they are in desperate need for the ability to get back to normal living conditions that afford them the ability to cook meals and have more space.”
Displaced families have had the path to new homes aided by a relaxing of local zoning legislation and financial aid from FEMA.
Deadlines for registering a claim with FEMA have passed. In Robeson County 18,490 residents filed claims and more than $23.7 million in relief funds has been approved.
Anyone with a property for rent is asked to call the disaster hotline at 910-671-3513.
Reach Mike Gellatly via Twitter @MikeGellatly.