Watch CBS News

Hundreds Of New Jersey Residents Displaced By Ida Still Living In Shelters Without Access To Belongings

ELIZABETH, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- Hundreds of New Jersey residents displaced by Hurricane Ida are still living in shelters and say they have no timeline for when they can collect any of their belongings.

Makeshift fencing and plywood lock the Oakwood Plaza Apartments in Elizabeth. Six hundred people were living there when Ida flooded the complex in September, killing four people.

"We're in crisis," advocate Salaam Ismial said.

Tenants have not been allowed inside their homes since Ida destroyed the entire complex.

"The molding had just contaminated all the 275 apartments," Ismial said.

Hundreds of tenants are now temporarily living in shelters, hotels or other units from C.I.S. Management, which runs the rent-subsidized housing complex. Tenants tell CBS2's Ali Bauman they feel completely abandoned by building management and the city.

"Many of these folks have been offered as far away as Atlantic City, Toms River," Ismial said.

"It's a temporary apartment, so you don't have a lease. You don't have your lights. Nothing is in your name in these apartments," tenant Sherrise Simmons said.

Tenants say they have not been able to get anything from their homes since the storm.

"Furniture, clothes, birth certificates, we have nothing," Simmons said.

Simmons is a mother of three.

"God forbid if they had to go to any other doctor, I would be screwed because I don't have no insurance cards," she said.

The family of Shakia Garrett, the 33-year-old woman who died in the flood, has no access to her belongings.

"FEMA said they can't help us without her social security card. Of course, it's in the apartment," said Hassanah Smith-Thomas, Garrett's cousin. "There's a necklace that Kia used to wear all the time. It had her grandmother's ashes in it. We want that back."

RELATED STORY: Vigil Held For 4 Elizabeth Residents Who Died In Ida Flooding

Tenants say they have no timeline from management, and on top of it all, they're still being charged rent.

"They don't communicate. They don't answer the phone," Simmons said.

C.I.S. Management told CBS2 the rent slips are "for accounting purposes" and "nobody is [...] expecting to be paid."

In the meantime, the Elizabeth mayor's office says the city is paying $40,000 a week to house tenants in hotels, telling us in part, "Due to the severe flooding throughout the region and the lack of available housing units, everyone is in a difficult situation."

"Where is the concern? Where is the sense of urgency? Where is the consideration for these tenants?" Ismial said.

The mayor's office told us 130 tenants have or will receive housing vouchers, and the city asked the Department of Housing and Urban Development for additional vouchers, which were not granted.

Meanwhile, the management office says the most important thing tenants can do is register with FEMA, which is continuing to process their claims.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.