The shelter at Atlantic City Convention Center closed this weekend, but there were still hundreds to thousands of families seeking help in the city Sunday.
There were more than 100 people in Atlantic City’s shelter on Friday, and by Saturday night most were taken to area hotels, said American Red Cross representative Russelle Patterson. Some returned to the Atlantic City Rescue Mission, and the rest went home or found other shelter.
The people taken to hotels were a mix of those awaiting FEMA transitional housing vouchers and others who remain displaced because their apartment buildings still lack utilities.
“We’re doing everything we can to get them back to some semblance of order. I think we’ll get there. I see a lot of community involvement, and the government is helping, too,” said Atlantic City Office of Emergency Management Director Tom Foley. “But the city (government) isn’t a housing authority.”
Foley said that in some cases, the approval process is complicated or delayed for housing vouchers because applicants already are on government assistance. The state Casino Reinvestment Development Authority also made available travel vouchers to shelter occupants from out of state.
Atlantic County and Red Cross officials arranged temporary accommodations for about 26 people from the West Atlantic City section of Egg Harbor Township, Foley said.
Many of the residents who remained at the Convention Center shelter Saturday night live in Liberty Apartments, Chelsea Village and the 20 percent of units in Stanley Holmes Village that have been uninhabitable since the storm, Foley said.
He said he expects Stanley Holmes and Chelsea Village to be fully reopened by Tuesday. City officials are meeting with the owners of Liberty Apartments to come up with a strategy because that building’s heating, electric and sprinkler systems are broken and its basement destroyed by flooding.
Patterson also said there were others in the shelter trying to take advantage of the system.
“It’s unfortunate,” she said. “You have people there that want to be put up in a hotel that have no reason they can’t go home.”
Rev. Collin Days said some people who had to leave the shelter Saturday stopped at Second Baptist Church on Rev. Dr. Issac S. Cole Plaza, saying their homes still did not have power.
“One of my big concerns for the city is we’re pushing that it’s back to business and the casinos are open, but I’m afraid people are going to lose sight of the fact that we still have a lot of work to do getting Atlantic City back together,” Days said.
He said he would be working with other displaced residents in the days to come to make sure they have a place to stay.
“I’m sure I’ll talk to many of them tomorrow,” Days said. “This is their stop when they don’t have anywhere else to go.”
The convention center was one of four shelters in the state to close this weekend, according to the Red Cross, which also organized several supply distribution centers in Atlantic City on Sunday.
Thousands of people turned out to Red Cross distribution centers at both the Second Baptist Church and Bader Field on Sunday to pick up necessities such as food and water and supplies to clean their properties.
At Bader Field, the Red Cross distributed shovels, rakes, tarps and buckets as people return to their homes and try to repair what Hurricane Sandy damaged.
“At first we were doing power outage type stuff — food, water, stuff you needed right away because you were without power,” said Don Barker, manager of bulk distribution for the Red Cross. “Now we’re into the fix-up-your-house stage.”
The line of vehicles to pick up supplies at Bader Field extended back onto Albany Avenue on Sunday afternoon. More than 100 Red Cross workers, from across the country as well as Mexico and Canada, came to help alongside many local volunteers.
“There was a large turnout of local people who came to help,” Barker said.
There was another distribution center at the Second Baptist Church on Rev. Dr. Issac S. Cole Plaza where as many as 300 families came to get supplies Sunday morning.
Shaheed DuBois, a partner services representative with the Red Cross, said two trailers of supplies were given out.
“People were really appreciative of it,” he said.
DuBois and Barker said more distribution centers were being set up later this week.
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