‘I want to cry’: Woman, three children cramped in $30 a night motel still reeling after Florence

Updated: Apr. 12, 2019 at 3:25 PM EDT
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WHITEVILLE, NC (WECT) - Tahtah Edwards’ entire life is contained in 325 square feet.

“We found this motel," Edwards said. "It’s nothing special but it’s the cheapest.”

Surrounded by her three children — one with autism and all under the age of 5 — Edwards sits inside the Holiday Motel in Whiteville, a place she’s called home for the past two months.

“As of today, we gotta come up with $30 just to stay here tonight," Edwards said Friday. "If we don’t, we will have to leave, and on top of that, I need to buy baby wipes. I may have to pawn a TV as a backup plan.”

Edwards landed here after Hurricane Florence. She, her boyfriend, and her children lived in Sandy Ridge Apartments, government housing that was flooded after Florence blew through.

“The National Guard came in and forced us to leave," Edwards said. “We went to a shelter, and then came back to the house and were living upstairs as the bottom floor was flooded out.”

In early 2019, construction crews came in and started gutting apartments, but Edwards and her family stayed, living with no water and no walls.

“We had no place to go,” she explained.

Site Manager Randy Horn told WECT six apartments including Edwards’ were destroyed after Florence and that Edwards and her family were living there illegally, but the community was trying to help.

In February, Sandy Ridge asked Edwards to leave for good so permanent repairs could be made.

“Between insurance and construction crews, it’s been very busy," Horn said. “We are working to get in materials so that families can move back in in about one to two months.”

Since being displaced, the Holiday Motel has been home for the Edwardses.

“It’s stressful because you are the parent and you are supposed to provide for them and when you can’t do it, it burns you up," Edwards said. "It’s a lot of stress and I get chest pains, like I feel like I’m having a heartache.”

Edwards said FEMA came in and gave the family money for the furniture they lost, and she has been approved for the state-run Back to Home program that helps families like Edwards find short term housing, provide financial assistance with rent, and help with household goods.

Problem is, finding a rental property in Whiteville is difficult, so Edwards remains stuck.

“I can’t find any rental properties here," she said. "There are so many people displaced and everything is full. Every day we just look and look.”

Edwards says she is at the end of her rope, and is not asking for handouts. She would like to just get suggestions as to where to go to finally settle into home.

“I hope people hear my story and realize there are still so many that are suffering,” she said. “I’m not going to give up. I have always heard a closed mouth won’t get fed. I just need help, and I’m trying to keep the faith.”

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