By Mikaela Chiasson-Knight, Managing Editor
A home is more than a place of residence, they are places to find security, make memories and build lives. As Ida left the Bayou Region, it took stability from a countless number of families in South Louisiana.
With so many buildings damaged and destroyed, residents are left scrambling to find new places to live.
The Houma Highlands Apartments on Hollywood Road in Houma are among the many residential homes that Ida damaged. Stevie LeBouf and her family lived in Houma Highlands and their apartment was significantly damaged. LeBouf was not even allowed to return home to retrieve what was left of the family’s belongings.
The apartment management “told us we couldn’t come back because of the ‘unknown damage,’ but they didn’t tarp our roof until three weeks after the hurricane,” LeBouf says “So every time it rained, our belongings would get more water damaged.”
Another resident, Divine Martin, lost his apartment and had to make the sudden decision to move with his family to Colorado.
“The most impactful thing is just being away from all of our family and friends that we used to see on a daily basis, but we’re making due,” he says.
In some places, displaced residents live in tents outside their damaged homes. Others, like Taylar Rhodes, have had to relocate completely to another area. The Rhodes home of over 50 years had significant damage, causing her family to move to Shreveport.
“My entire life was upended — from home, to work, to friends and family. We didn’t just lose our house; we lost our whole way of living,” she says. “Now we are in a new city; we have to find new jobs and new friends and new things to do on the weekends. So in some ways, we did lose everything. And in other ways, we gained a second chance to start fresh.”
Another Houma Highlands resident, Brynn Duck, was forced to leave her undamaged apartment and live in a camper on a friend’s property. Duck is unsure how long she will be living there due to the lack of available housing in the area. According to Duck, mostly every complex office she’s spoken to is damaged.
“Due to something in the camper’s electrical wiring, we don’t have power directly from the camper, and we’ve had to run extension cords from the house into the camper,” she says. “I can’t shower in the camper because we don’t have hot water, so I shower at my gym and I do laundry at a friend’s house. Inside the house is my roommate’s mom, grandma, cousin, his cousin’s wife, and their two kids. His cousin’s family also lost their apartment because of the storm, and they can’t find a place to live right now either.”
Duck also lost a place of employment, The Intracoastal Club, due to severe structural damage. The Club hopes to reopen in the next few months after remodeling the entire venue.
Residential areas are not the only ones suffering from Ida’s damage. Josh Sons, Managing Partner of MOS Real Estate, has seen severe damage to his company’s commercial and real estate properties. Sons is in charge of multiple rental properties; he is also responsible for dealing with insurance adjusters and contractors.
“One of our commercial real estate buildings was a total loss, and we had to move locations, and several of our residential homes had to be gutted,” he says. “[The hardest part has been] dealing with our tenants and residential properties, trying to meet their needs. The heartbreak around having folks relocate and you can’t do anything to help them makes you feel helpless. But we can’t have them living in an unlivable situation.”
– Taylar Rhodes, Houma Resident