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Residents Made Homeless by Sandy Still Left in Limbo

1-21-13

Brenda Flanagan
NJ Today

She’s homeless and exhausted. For three months, superstorm Sandy refugee Maria McQuarrie has lived crammed into a single hotel room with her husband and 8 year-old daughter. They all sleep in one bed. Homeless and exhausted, Maria misses the little things like sleeping in her own bed and being able to cook.

So far, FEMA has picked up the tab for the McQuarries, and 50 other uprooted families staying at the Hazlet Holiday Inn. Maria is grateful the hotel is letting them bring their dog, but she is homesick and miserable.

“My husband, when he’s working nights, has to sleep. And then we have to go outside in the lobby and do homework,” she said.

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More than 1000 New Jersey families are still living like the McQuarries. They can’t find a suitable apartment. They keep waiting for a FEMA trailer and worry how long FEMA will foot the bills for these hotel rooms.

“Where are these people gonna go? They have no place to go,” said Holiday Inn manager Abbie Aronofsky.

So Aronofsky welcomed FEMA’s recent decision to extend hotel payments until Jan. 25. It’s paid $17 million for transitional housing in New Jersey. Ironically, she’s forced to stay at her own hotel because Sandy destroyed her condo. Today, the stress and frustration of the past several months finally came out. “I haven’t broken down once but today,” she said tearfully. “I think this is my max day. I think today is the day.”

Meanwhile, at the McQuarries’ flood-damaged home in Union Beach, workmen still labor to clean up the mess Sandy left behind. Scott and Maria showed us the crooked, moldy walls and corroded electrical system. Cartoon princesses still adorn the walls of their daughter’s playroom. Everything else is gone.

“I’m at my wit’s end right now,” said Scott. “My poor wife. It takes a toll on you, but you have to be strong.”

They can’t live at the house. Scott spent hours on the phone with FEMA trying to book a trailer but met one obstacle after another. Frustrated, the former Marine found a trailer to rent on his own and says FEMA promised to pay for it.

It’s got a kitchen, a bathroom and two separate bedrooms. They still need to hook up water and electricity. But by sometime this week, the McQuarries hope they will be living, if not at home, at least next to it.