A recovery center Tuesday in Northeast Wilmington aimed to help those affected by last week’s catastrophic flooding. Some residents left unhappy.
Volunteers and representatives from City and State agencies offered residents food, clothing and cleaning supplies—as well as access to staff at Delmarva Power, DART and the Division of Social Services.
State officials say hundreds of residents came through the pop-up resource center at The Warehouse within hours of opening Tuesday morning.
Some whose housing flooded last Thursday have been able to return to their homes.
John Paul Leonardo waited in line for social services alongside his wife and two children in the Warehouse gymnasium Tuesday. The house they rent on New Castle Ave. was flooded with multiple feet of water on the first floor, and Leonardo says he needs help getting some of the damaged material out.
“I walked through my house to see the damage, I see all my couches floating five feet above the floor,” he said. “My fridge is in the kitchen turning around like a boat, doing circles.”
Others have not returned home, living in hotels, vehicles or with relatives.
Jamika Lyons says she and her children have been couch surfing since her first-floor apartment flooded. The building, Claymont Street Apartments, has been condemned, City of Wilmington officials confirm. Lyons says she reached out to the state for help with a hotel voucher before Tuesday’s event, but did not hear back. She left the event dissatisfied.
“It’s just not enough answers,” she said. “It’s a whole lot of speculation and ‘we’re trying this,’ and ‘we’re trying that,’ and ‘we’ll get back to you.’ With my family being displaced, that’s not really working. We need solid answers.”
State Service Center officials say they put about 20 families up in hotels with vouchers this weekend—and are working to find temporary housing for others. The Wilmington Housing Authority is also collecting names of those displaced.
Janece Boardley and her partner also lived at the Claymont Street Apartments, but have been living in their vehicle since it flooded.
“This should have never happened,” Boardley said. “Nobody should have been in nobody’s gym. Nobody should have been misplaced. They should have had somewhere for everyone to go. … They waited too long.”
Delaware Emergency Management Director A.J. Schall, Jr., says Tuesday's event was in part to gauge the need for housing.
“From there—the rental market’s already strapped—what can we do to help people over the next few weeks get something sustainable,” he said.
Schall notes displaced residents opted not to stay overnight at the emergency shelter the state and American Red Cross stood up late last week at the Police Athletic League.
“We opened up the shelters, nobody wanted to come—we understand that,” he said. “What can we do to help people that have a longer road ahead of them for recovery?”
Schall says the state does not yet have an estimate of the number of people displaced and unable to live in their flooded units, but notes City of Wilmington Department of Licenses and Inspections and Delmarva Power went house-to-house this weekend to assess the damage.
The state of Delaware hopes for federal disaster recovery money from FEMA. Schall says the next step is a preliminary damage assessment.
“They’ll be down here this week to go through that,” he said. “By no means do I want to get people’s hopes up. It’s a longer road to get that approved. But we’re going to do everything we can.”
Gov. John Carney and Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki made appearances at Tuesday’s event.