(NEW YORK) — Until a year ago Tuesday, when Superstorm Sandy unleashed its fury on the East Coast, home for Cherell Manuel and her family was a two-story house in the Far Rockaway neighborhood of New York City.
But after Manuel, 46, watched the family home fill with raging waters, home is now a transient concept.
Manuel and her family — fiancé Lester and daughters Tajiri, 23, Diamond, 22, and Najh’ja, 7 — have since lived in a shelter and bounced around various hotels in Manhattan, piling their belongings into standard-sized rooms that measure a few hundred square feet.
After city officials said last month they would stop paying for the rooms, the Red Cross and other donors stepped in to foot the bill.
“We’re living day by day because we don’t know what day they’re going to tell us to leave the hotel,” Manuel told ABC News. “It’s been a stressful journey.”
Manuel’s household is one of an estimated 150, out of several thousand initially, that are still displaced in city hotels one year after the storm, according to Adriene Holder, attorney in charge for the Legal Aid Society in New York.
Many of them are waiting to find out if they’ll be approved for two-year housing vouchers from the city to help them pay the rent and get back on their feet, Holder said.
“We really want to see all of them get re-established because there is no need for people to have to go into the shelter system,” Holder said. “We believe there are resources out there to get them properly placed.”
Going back to what they had before the storm may be a dream for many displaced families, according to Peter Gudaitis, a nonprofit New York Disaster Interfaith Services administrator, but it’s not a reality.
“Many were renters. And many want to stay in neighborhood where their jobs and families or support systems are located,” he said. “The reality is they won’t be able to.”
He said a smaller housing stock in affected areas has driven up rent prices, making it difficult for people to return to their pre-Sandy neighborhoods and recapture the lives they had before the storm.
Frustrated with case workers, Manuel said she has taken a proactive approach to finding a place for her family to live. The unemployed mom said she’s close to signing on a place in Far Rockaway, the Queens neighborhood she called home before Sandy smashed the peninsula as a downgraded superstorm after initially reaching hurricane strength.
“It would be a sigh of relief,” she said. “Because through this whole ordeal, it’s been nothing but stress.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
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