Our town was not hit as hard as the shore was by the hurricane. However, our basement flooded and our power went out and was not restored until the 12th. We have asked our landlord to pump the water out of the basement, but he has refused to do so, saying it will “recede on its own.” Meanwhile, the smell of mold and the humidity/moisture felt in the house in undeniable. The house smells. On the first floor of our home our clothes, our bags were covered in condensation particles, covered in water. Everything was wet and felt damp. I am 100% sure that these conditions have led to my mother’s bronchitis and my increase in allergies and sinus pain, as well as my newly developed cough.
Our entire town’s power was restored within a few days of Hurricane Sandy. Our house along with one other home next door was not restored. Our homes are the oldest homes on the block. PSE&G kept telling us our neighborhood was restored or that they knew nothing about restoration times. I repeatedly
called PSE&G to ask them when our power would come back and they kept extending the deadline every time I called. They either told us that they have no information or they gave us false information. 99% of all customers had power back before us. On more than one occasion a representative put me on hold and then the automated system hung up on me. Other times I got hung up on before even reaching a representative. I realize it takes a very long time to restore everyone and the Hurricane was catastrophic for the area, but the disconnect and lack of information about when someone would come and restore our power is unacceptable. Also what is unacceptable is PSE&G fieldworkers yelling at us, when we saw them working on our street and asked them if they were restoring power to our house. The call center said they knew nothing and that only the field workers know about restoration. We talked the field worker and he yelled at us. Again, I am aware that the field workers were/are really frustrated and overworked. I appreciate all their work, but I didn’t do anything to you to make you yell at me.
We are paying rent on a place that we cannot even live in. It was so cold and unbearable in our home
that we were forced to get in our car and go from one hotel to motel to hotel until we found an empty room. We found a room in the Westin for two nights. Then we found a room for 4 nights at the Best Western once our Westin hotel stay was up. This does not take into account that the staff at the Best Western was very mean to us and kept trying to cheat us out of our reservation and charge us more that our original reservation. They had the nerve to take advantage of us in a hurricane situation because they know we have nowhere else to go. We complained to Best Western Headquarters, but they were of little help.
I realize that there are shelters and warming stations for people to stay in, however, as far as I was told those shelters were mixed gender. Our family is Muslim and my mother wears hijab. Is she expected to sleep in hijab? These shelters do not take into account religious circumstances. Also those who have been to the shelters in the area did not have good things to say. I emailed the Red Cross asking about separate sleeping areas for women and they responded to me telling me to contact FEMA. And when I emailed FEMA they told me to contact the Red Cross and that they were not partnered with any Muslim organizations for the Sandy relief efforts. That is a shame.
We have no friends or family in the area, state or even on the entire coast. We were forced to go to a hotel. And we really cannot afford to be staying in hotels and we couldn’t stay at home. My parents are going through a divorce that has left my mother alone with more than $5,000 in lawyer bills. My
father’s alimony payments do not even pay the rent for our home. He is so sound financially that he extended the divorce settlement for so long, trying to lower his alimony payments lower and lower. He was successful only because my mother could not afford to pay her lawyer anymore- she had to settle. Justice was not served, but was controlled by money. My mother is bankrupt and our prior home was foreclosed on. My brother and I both work part-time, but we are already unable to keep up with all the
minimum house payments. Somehow we make too much money to qualify for Food Stamps of free legal aid, but don’t make enough money to pay our bills or keep food on the table. I have a BA and an MA and I am unable to find a full-time job or even another part-time job. Although this is probably a tune we have all heard before.
We have well over $100,000 in student loans between the three of us. Our phone bill there’s the car insurance. I even contemplated selling my car to pay off my car loan, but without a car, I can’t get to work because there is no reliable public transportation in this town. I don’t know where there is a public bus or a bus station around here. I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a bus around here. I would have to drive to get to the closest form of public transportation. I’m sure of it.
We have medical bills and health insurance bills over $1,000. We have car loan payments and utility payments, as well as credit card payments. We even tried going to flea markets to sell items we don’t use anymore, but no one wants to buy our stuff. And we have good stuff.
Our landlord demanded the rent payment of $1,600, the day after the hurricane passed, when we were unable to even sit in our own home for more than 5 minutes and he still has not pumped the water out of the basement. Our landlord only came over for the rent check, he didn’t even come by to check on his house, we had to call him to ask him to come over. We cannot even find a pro bono lawyer willing to help us with this and we cannot afford to hire a lawyer to deal with this.
We called legal services at where we work to make an appointment and didn’t get a response. We called the township they told us to call Legal Aid concerning our landlord situation. We called Legal Aid they told us we made too much money for them to help us. We called the mayor’s office again who forwarded our case to the Department of Health. The Department of Health called us and told us they looked at the plans of our house and that because our basement is considered a crawl space, it is not a health hazard. Meanwhile the smell of mold from the basement is undeniable. The moisture and humidity felt in the air, the wet bags- that is all undeniable. My mother’s bronchitis and my sudden sinus and allergy increase is undeniable. But without inspection they decided that it was not a health hazard and that mold is not an issue. How can they say that without seeing it? Without being here? We lived in a hotel because our home was unliveable. I’m writing to you now and my chest is heavy, I feel that it is difficult to breathe in this house. The lights are flickering and even PSE&G said they had to check the water damage in our home to make sure that is not interfering with our power restoration.
One week in a cheap hotel is nearly $1,000 and that is not including food costs, since we have been unable to cook for ourselves. We didn’t have a real home cooked meal in over a week. Yes, the shelters provide food, but my mother and I both have very serious food allergies and my brother and mother don’t eat meat that isn’t halal. I read articles about the Red Cross and their shelters and serving hot meals. They were serving meatballs. I’m not sure, but I know some people make meatballs with pork. Definitely not halal.
We haven’t been able to go to work or concentrate when we are at work because we have all been physically sick and mentally and emotionally torn apart. After we financially exhausted ourselves on hotels we bought a generator because we couldn’t afford to live in a hotel/motel anymore. The generator didn’t run like it was supposed to and we tried to return it the next day, but Sears said it was a final sale item. We weren’t returning it because we got our power back, because at that point we didn’t get our power back, we were returning it because it didn’t work like it was supposed to. It didn’t last the 10 hours it said it would last, it wasn’t able to support the wattage it said it would.
Everyone says that people come together during times of need, but all I have seen is people being greedy and mean. We are at a financial breaking point, where we should be applying for welfare and food stamps, but again, we somehow don’t qualify. Our bills far exceed us, but that is never factored into these things. We tried calling FEMA to see what aid was available for people like us, but they hung up on us. For people like us, who live pay check to pay check, there is no aid. There is no help. We are just supposed to further bankrupt ourselves. We are supposed to not eat. We are supposed to live in the cold. We are supposed to sit there and take it. What are we supposed to do? There is no aid for people like us. There is nothing for us. Nothing. Is the idea that we have to completely break and be left completely penniless on the streets before we receive aid? Isn’t it too late then? We really can’t make it. I promise you that if our situation continues like this, we will be living in a shelter in 2 years time because all of our money will go to bills and we won’t have money for rent. But by then it will be too late. We are trying to make it and survive but we really don’t know how to make ends meet anymore.
I was under the impression that when you rent a home, you rent it with the idea that you can use the entire home, unless otherwise specified. We can’t use our basement, even if it is a crawl space, we can’t use it because the landlord won’t pump it. It is still flooded. But no one can defend us against this. We have no options. We have no money. We struggle to put food on the table and no one cares. No one cares about people like us- the ones who make too much money to be eligible for aid, but don’t have enough money to pay rent or have to choose between paying a bill and paying for food.
We decided to stop the rent check to our landlord, we did this before we received power back. Even the bank said we should stop the check. Till today the house is very very damp. No one is able to protect us from our landlord. We know that the landlord has friends in the township and the police force. I worry that this may be why no one cares about us and why the Department of Health snubbed us. I don’t like to believe in conspiracies or like to believe the world is against me, but in this case I think the township is against us. We are forced to move, last minute, with little notice. We didn’t want to move under these conditions, but we are forced to move and fear that our landlord will sue us for the rent. We fear for our health and for our financial situation. But this home is unliveable and no one can help us.