When Nikki Dawson returned to her rented first-floor apartment on Eighth Street in Brigantine the Thursday after Hurricane Sandy, the house didn’t look too bad at first.

“It was dark by the time I got into town,” she said. “But when I stepped inside, I could feel the carpet squish under my feet.”

From there it was all downhill, as Dawson was told the apartment was not habitable and she needed to move her belongings out by today.

But a local Realtor turned her life around, helping her find a reasonably priced winter rental she could move into immediately.

Dennis Allen, owner of Ashore Realty in Brigantine, said that as soon as he realized how many people would be displaced on the island, his office reached out to its summer landlords to see whether they would be willing to help. So far he has matched about 25 families with winter rentals, charging no commission for the service. Agent Ellen Corapi helped Dawson find her rental.

“Most of the owners have been very generous.” Allen said. “A few have even let people use their homes for free, and many are charging $500 or $600 a month.”

Long Beach Island real estate agent Laura Dunlap said she has used Facebook to match up a few displaced residents with summer home owners willing to rent on a month-to-month basis while their homes are repaired.

“This is a way for families to stay on the island and keep their children in the school,” she said. “We wanted them to be able to come back and be with their friends and their teachers, and give the families some breathing room to fix up their homes.”

Dawson, 33, has lived in Brigantine for several years and had lived in her most recent apartment since December. She just bought a new couch and is going to attempt to save it.

“I love that couch,” she said as she sat among boxes and trash bags packed for the move Thursday. “I spent weeks picking it out.”

The unit she is now renting is furnished, so most of what she can salvage is going into storage. Her new short-term rental is half the amount of her old rent, so she will have money for the storage fees and be able to save some for a new permanent apartment and to replace some of the things she lost. She is thrilled with the one-bedroom unit at the Brigantine Island Beach Resort.

“I’ve got a view!” she said.

Mary Cloud, of Philadelphia, owner of the unit Dawson is renting, said it was a way for her to help even though she wasn’t at the shore.

“I saw the posting on Dennis’ website and thought it was a great idea,” she said. “I can’t get down there to actually help people, but this was something I could do.”

Dawson said she still wants to stay on the island and is hoping to be able to find a year-round rental in the spring.

Contact Diane D'Amico:

609-272-7241