CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. — A Charlotte County family is forced to live under separate roofs while waiting on temporary housing from FEMA. It’s a situation so many are in as the travel trailers pile up by the Punta Gorda airport.
“Unfortunately from what we’ve seen from previous disasters, not only here in Charlotte County from Hurricane Charley but throughout the nation, disaster housing is one of those issues that persist and takes a while to remedy,” Charlotte County’s Emergency Management Director Patrick Fuller said. He said FEMA always takes the lead on housing.
Any one of the trailers sitting on Piper Road could make a home for Chenoa Butler-Lingard and her family. They’ve been sleeping in separate homes since Ian wrecked their rental.
“For a while there, I was texting them each morning ‘have a good day at school.’ I should be able to tell my children good night,” she said. “If it wasn’t for my friends and family, I don’t know what we’d do.”
For more than 30 years, Butler-Lingard has lived and raised her children in Port Charlotte. They evacuated for Ian but came back to collapsed roofs and mold.
“My older son has been couch surfing with friends for the first month or six weeks, and my youngest son has been living with my mother in her condo. I’ve been staying with friends, first in Punta Gorda, then Port Charlotte.”
It’s a situation no mom wants to be in. She’s forced to visit her youngest son at his grandma’s house a few days a week, and her other son now living with her at a friend’s. That’s why she really wants, and needs, temporary housing from FEMA.
“I got them; I thought it was a glorious phone call November 4 that said me and my children, my boys, were eligible for a FEMA trailer,” Butler-Lingard said. “Every time I check, it’s just not happening. Not happening… They told us we would be eligible up to 18 months, but that started counting Sept. 29, and so now we’re already 6 months in.”
FEMA offered her and her family a trailer on Pine Island, which seemed ludicrous to Butler-Lingard considering the damage and need there. She ultimately had to decline because of how far away it was from her sons’ schools.
While they continue waiting for a roof of their own over their head, this family counts their blessings in friendships.
“My girlfriends have been an amazing blessing,” Butler-Lingard said.
Patrick Fuller said the resiliency in Charlotte County is heartwarming, and he knows we will build back stronger than before.
There are two FEMA group sites in the works for Charlotte County. Fuller said they should be opening in late May or early June.
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