Matthew recovery: Lenoir Co. teacher, family, on the verge of homlessness

KINSTON, N.C. (WNCT) – Nearly four months after Hurricane Matthew slammed the East, hundreds of families in Lenoir County are still desperately searching for help.

One of those still waiting is Joseph Noble, who’s been a teacher in Lenoir County for 21 years. His family has been out of their home since the storm hit in October.

“We lived in our car for a few nights with a 5, 7 and 9-year-old and my wife and a few belongings, it’s very, very uncomfortable,” he said.

Following the storm, his family was put up in a hotel for 45 days, before receiving checks each month for a rental property in Kinston. However, in January, those checks stopped coming.

Noble appealed the decision, but that appeal was rejected. With no money, he said he and his family may be left out in the cold again.

But he isn’t alone.

Hundreds of people attended a disaster relief meeting in Kinston on Tuesday. They came to receive information about further assistance that may be available.

For many, the only options they have is to receive money to raise their house above the flood plain, or have the house bought out entirely.

Mary Kelly of La Grange wants her home bought out.

“If we don’t, we’re going to have to move. I don’t have a choice. We can smell the mold coming up from underneath the house,” she said.

As the months have passed, the help has continued to elude many. Bobby Urich said he and his neighbors have all been told to just wait.

“It’s very, very frustrating,” he said. “On a 1 to 10 scale, a hundred, probably a thousand.”

During the meeting, local officials described what help people could apply for.

The following information was given to those looking to have their house bought out:

  1. Homeowner can withdraw from the program at any time
  2. Homeowner will be be offered a pre-flood fair market value
  3. If the homeowner disagrees with that number, the owner can bring in a second appraisal at their expense. If that appraisal is with 15% of the original number, the higher number will be used. If the numbers are more than 15% apart, a third appraisal paid for by the local government will be needed.
  4. Owners must keep all receipts for repairs done after the storm.
  5. They must also keep copies of all FEMA, state or insurance payments received
  6. Primary residences and rental properties are eligible, NOT secondary residences
  7. After purchased, the house is demolished

For those looking to have their home elevated, the following information was given to them:

  1. Homeowner can withdraw at any time.
  2. Primary residences and rental properties are eligible, NOT secondary residences
  3. Professional engineer will be brought in by the local government
  4. The lowest floor must be at least two feet above the 100-year-flood level
  5. After home is raised, the owner must carry flood insurance
  6. Funds for rental property during the process may be available

For those in attendance looking for immediate help, they left disappointed.

“It would be doubtful if we had funds available before the end of this year,” said David Harris, who is the contractor raising the homes in Lenoir County.

The county is now asking those who meet the criteria to apply so they can hand over all material to the state by March 31st. The state will then review the applications, and determine who will be approved for elevation or buy outs.

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