Catastrophe leads to housing crisis in Port Arthur after Harvey
PORT ARTHUR —
Landlords in Port Arthur are evicting tenants because of water damage to apartment units throughout the city, leading to a housing crisis that will likely get worse before it gets better.
Those eviction notices are not only going out to families already in Port Arthur. There are many others evacuated to the Dallas area who don't even know they won't have a home to return to and that will increase the number of people looking for a roof over their heads.
Dez Fontenette, a 59-year-old Port Arthur resident, is starting over.
Harvey destroyed her home, forcing the grandmother to move into an apartment with her daughter, son-in-law and their children.
That stay was short-lived.
High water surrounded the Park Central complex off Highway 365.
First responders on a boat had to rescue Fontenette and her family.
The family returned to the apartment only to find out they had five days to leave. They were evicted because of mold concerns, even though Fontenette says very little water got inside the apartment.
Fontenette considers herself homeless.
"I don't have any hotel. I don't have anywhere to go," she says. "I don't know where I'm going tonight."
FEMA did give Fontenette's family a hotel voucher for Austin. She says her grandchildren are already enrolled in school there, something Port Arthur native Melvin Marshall is trying to avoid.
Marshall says it would be very hard to leave Port Arthur after 37 years.
"But if we have to pack up and relocate, we're willing do it, reluctantly willing to do it," he says. "But if that's what we need to do, we'll do what we need to do."
Marshall and his wife live at Arthur Square apartments. The first level will be gutted because of water damage and mold - a situation affecting apartment complexes throughout Port Arthur.
"The hits just keep on coming," says Jefferson County Pct. 3 Commissioner Michael Sinegal, whose precinct covers the Port Arthur area. "We have a serious housing shortage."
Sinegal says after hurricanes Rita and Ike, 5,000 people left Port Arthur. He is talking to state and federal officials hoping to find housing alternatives to avoid another population loss.
But Sinegal admits it won't be easy. He wishes landlords could give residents an extension because he says this crisis will affect all of us.
"Port Arthur can't afford, Jefferson County can't afford, the school district can't afford to lose that type of citizenship within 10 years," Sinegal says.
Any solution won't come soon enough for Fontenette.
"Tomorrow, I don't know where I will sleep," she says.
Sinegal tells KFDM/Fox 4 Jefferson County is considering turning the former Al Price facility on Highway 69 into a shelter for those seeking housing.
He says it cost half a million dollars to make it livable.