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Mattress Giveaway In Queens Highlights Depth Of Need That Remains 3 Weeks After Ida

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Three weeks after the remnants of Hurricane Ida pummeled the region, homes in Queens are still unlivable.

Furniture has yet to be replaced.

At First Baptist Church in East Elmhurst, organizations are helping families replace water-soaked mattresses.

As CBS2's Christina Fan reported, a massive tractor trailer had 250 mattresses inside it Wednesday morning. Just a few hours into the giveaway, the supplies were gone. That's how high demand is in this community.

There was gratitude in front of First Baptist Church, where flood-ravaged families lined up for hours, hoping to get their hands on a good night's sleep for the first time in weeks.

"Very tired. For me, anyway, I go anywhere. For my children, it's a problem. My children now are sleeping on the floor," said East Elmhurst resident Luis Carpio.

Carpio showed Fan video of his flooded basement, where his five children, ages 6 to 16, were sleeping. The water rose so fast the night of Ida, he said he had no time to save any of their belongings.

"I open and the water come this high. So I take my children up. I have it in the basement and the first floor," Carpio said.

Watch Christina Fan's report --

Many families in Queens have been struggling to move on with their lives. Some are still waiting for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to finish its inspection reports, while others had their insurance claims flat-out denied.

"Claims have been put in for a lot of people and nothing has really come through for anybody. That's why these beds are really appreciated. It's the first hands-on relief that we are really receiving," said East Elmhurst resident Yesenia Bravo.

The Bhagwandins of Woodside, Queens said they are utterly exhausted. They are burned out from gutting all their walls, but even more jaded by the response from elected officials.

"Not one agency has showed up here to even examine this property to see if there are people in danger," Amrita Bhagwandin said.

Several homes along 183rd Street have structural damage. Families say Ida's floodwaters exacerbated existing cracks in their foundations, making their homes uninhabitable. They say their attempts to reach the city have been ignored.

"We are just in limbo right now. We don't know what to do, how to fix this thing," Sahadeo Bhagwandin said.

Ida's heavy rain sent water gushing out of Roger Quan's bathroom.

"I could've died," he told CBS2's Cory James. "It shot up from the toilet."

Sewage filled his Queens basement apartment.

"Almost everything got destroyed," he said.

Quan, the father of a 3-year-old boy, says he was forced to leave his home of six years to keep his family together.

"I had to move out because I went to HRA, and they said I couldn't live there anymore. It's an illegal dwelling right now, especially with a child, because of mold and mildew," he said.

"It's something we're going to see a lot more of," said Sateesh Nori, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society.

Nori says landlords could be avoiding repairs to avoid fines for doing illegal work on things like plumbing, electric and gas -- all requiring permits.

"Sometimes, there's nothing they can do. They'll never get the permits ... and the landlords have very little incentive to make these apartments more safe," he said.

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams says a pilot program to help landlords legalize basement dwellings was in place to make that happen, but it was later defunded.

"What we should be doing is putting together a plan. In exchange for making things affordable, we got to get a lot of these legalized," he said.

Meanwhile, local leaders held a virtual flood disaster assistance town hall on Wednesday to discuss aid.

But families who have been flooded before say besides assistance, they want a sit-down with City Hall to discuss a permanent resolution.

"The money that the federal government is giving cannot fix one crack in the wall," Amrita Bhagwandin said.

They are tired of temporary repairs.

"It's not a quick fix. It's going to take a while. But it's up to us to make sure the funding and promises are fulfilled," said LeFrak City resident Michell Dunston.

The governor's office, Mattress Firm, and Habitat for Humanity are holding another mattress giveaway at the First Baptist Church on Thursday. It starts at 8 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m.

CBS2's Christina Fan contributed to this report.

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