Displaced After Texas Snowstorm, Mothers Find Refuge Through Local Nonprofit
When Dallas resident Kanesha Toines' apartment flooded with water from pipes that burst due to last week’s winter storm, she hurried, grabbed her five kids and hoped to find shelter.
“We were not expecting for it to go this way at all,” said Toines.
A week after freezing temperatures took over much of the state, some North Texans still have no place to call home. As of Thursday, Toines' apartment has no water or electricity.
“They [her kids] are heartbroken. They're scared even now because they don’t know when we are going to go home or even if we are,” said the single mother. “It does take a lot because when you have children, you have to be strong because when your children see you crumble or see you cry... That’s going to put fear in them.”
Toines didn’t know who to turn to until she saw a post on Facebook saying someone could help.
She found refuge with the nonprofit Not My Son, an organization that’s housing families that have been displaced due to the Texas winter storm.
“It’s hard to tell people no,” said Tramonica Brown, the founder of Not My Son. “I feel like our City of Dallas should have done a better job. Some of our larger nonprofits should have done a better job. Because this non-profit only had $10,000 in the bank. It was good because we were able to help people immediately.”
When a crisis strikes, residents can call the City of Dallas’ 2-1-1 number, but Tramonica Brown said they were not getting to people fast enough.
“What do you do when you ask the city to help you and you’re told to call 2-1-1? I had 600 people on my back. Calling 2-1-1 is not an option for me,” she said.
La Quinta hotel in North Dallas is one of three current locations where Not My Son is hosting families. In total, the organization has provided housing to more than 600 families since last week's storm. They're doing this all through donations.
When people walk into a hotel, there’s a sign at the lobby with a text number and guests join the alert list the organization has set up. Members of Not My Son and volunteers provide lunch and dinner. They keep a nurse at the hotel for medical emergencies. They're also working with families to file insurance claims.
“They've [Not My Sons] been the best. I'm grateful that they helped me and my family. Because I don't know...we would probably still be at home with no water in the car,” said Natasha Barthelemy.
Barthelemy, her 3-year-old son DJ and her fiancé are staying at La Quinta Hotel.
For Barthelemy, last week’s storm isn’t the first time she lost her house to a natural disaster. She remembers Hurricane Katrina in 2005 when it wiped out New Orleans.
“Water was above our head. We were floating in boats. There were families on the roof. We saw families drown,” she said.
Barthelemy moved to Dallas after the traumatic event. She said she never would have imagined going through another storm in North Texas. Barthelemy lost power on Monday Feb. 15 and it wasn’t fully restored until Friday — five days without heat.
“We froze. We had to go warm up in my car many nights,” she said. “I couldn't even do it for so long because I started to run out of gas. It broke my heart because I had my little man with me.”
Shortly after losing power, water filled her apartment. Barthelemy’s belongings are damaged and she still doesn’t have water. She said the whole apartment complex experienced the same and residents lined up at the fire hydrant to try to get water so they could flush their toilets.
“It's really sad, because the government said that they were going to do better after Hurricane Katrina. They said they were going to be more prepared for this," said Barthelemy. “I feel like when you have situations like this and you know what's going to happen in advance, that's your time to be prepared. Don't wait for people to die.”
Back at the La Quinta hotel, Brown runs back and forth. She answers her phone, which is constantly ringing and stresses about finding food for families her organization is hosting. Brown is concerned funding will run out before families can return back to their homes.
“We had exhausted our credit cards and debit cards. We were just at the max across the board,” said Brown. “We are going day by day though. So it is scary every morning because I don’t know if I am going to have the funding to pay for all the people in the hotels.”
Toines is feeling immense pressure. She said it’s hard right now to see light at the end of the tunnel.
“With me and some of the other mothers when we are alone we are praying and crying because we don’t know what to do,” said Toines. “If the government really understood and knew how much they have failed us as a society, as a mother...they really have and it is heartbreaking.”
Not My Son relies on donations. Here's how you can help:
Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member and writes about the impact of COVID-19 on underserved communities for KERA News. Email Alejandra at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @alereports.
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