Lataiyyah Washington and her two sons lived in a hotel after the remnants of Hurricane Ida functionally destroyed their apartment complex in Elizabeth, New Jersey, which was the largest source of low income housing in the city. Last week, Elizabeth officials told her the city would no longer cover the cost of her temporary “housing” because she declined to be relocated to two locations that do not meet state subsidized housing standards for her family nor a two-bedroom apartment a two hour drive away — out of the question for Washington who does not own a car.
“My kids go to school [in Elizabeth],” she told BuzzFeed. “Their doctors’ appointments are out here.”
The city can continue to apply for FEMA reimbursements, but FEMA has not disbursed any funds to Elizabeth to cover temporary housing. “They are leaving these people out to dry,” Salaam Ismial, a community activist whose relative also lived in Washington’s apartment complex and was killed during the storm.
Housing injustice worsened by climate change
The dilemma illustrates the immediate human and financial costs of storms supercharged by human-caused climate change. Washington — beyond the overall stress of the situation — lost all of her sons’ childhood pictures to the flooding and has been unable to get a job because she can’t get childcare. Meanwhile, her sons lived in a rotation of hotel rooms while her teenager tried to e-learn over hotel wifi as his little brother ran around the room. It also points to the overarching dearth of affordable housing exacerbated by Ida — a phenomenon not unique to that storm or region. Washington and her two sons were evicted from the Embassy Suites on Friday, February 4. They are currently living with Washington’s mother, who is risking her own housing if her daughter and grandchildren stay for too long. “I need my own apartment,” Washington told BuzzFeed yesterday. (BuzzFeed; Climate Signals background: 2021 Atlantic hurricane season)