I met Ms. Latania Fox for the first time at Christ Lutheran Church in Upper Darby just before Christmas 2022. She left me feeling upbeat and inspired after our short conversation about her disaster recovery.

Latania is one of the 232 Ida survivors in Delaware County who responded to a survey the Lutheran Disaster Response – Eastern PA program of LCS sent out to 3,500 residents in Delaware County between October 2022 and Jan 2023. The survey was sent to families who registered with FEMA and who had at least one family member with one or more social vulnerabilities: over age 65, income lower than 80% AMI (Adjusted Median Income) or an access/functional need.

All of the 232 people who responded to the survey were subsequently called so that we could learn more about their current disaster related needs. LCS and our partners are able to provide things like referrals for legal aid, gift cards, furniture, appliances, rental assistance, home repairs, and disaster
case management.

Linda Frey has been serving as Latania’s disaster case manager on behalf of LCS since October.

Recently, Latania talked with me in more detail about her disaster recovery. “When Ida hit, my daughter and I were renting a house in Chester, PA. We had never experienced anything like this before. The water just ruined everything. It came up from the basement and in through the roof. In the days after the storm, our landlord refused to do anything to help us. The house was in a state of disrepair before the storm and he said he wasn’t going to fix anything now. We tried to stay and clean up but the situation was awful. Mold was growing. Our washer and dryer, furniture and all of our personal items were ruined. I do a pretty good job of keeping my head above water, but this time I was drowning.”

Latania continued, “My daughter, she is 23 and disabled, we left that house to live in a back building on a friend’s property. It had a bathroom and bed, but no kitchen. We stayed for a while then went to a hotel. Later we stayed at my other daughter’s one bedroom apartment that she shares with my two granddaughters. We were doing our best to make our way and find a new place to live, but at that time we could not find a place and I kept thinking how unfair the situation was.”

Linda and Latania got connected when Latania was still living in the crowded one bedroom with her two daughters and two granddaughters. Since then Latania was able to find an apartment for her and her daughter and Linda has helped Latania get $5000 worth of furniture and appliances from The Salvation Army. When she moved in, she said “When we moved in all we had was two air mattresses and a space heater.” She is happy that she is still able to live in Chester, where she has lived her whole life.

Latania said that Linda was like a gift from God to her. Linda brought her hope and just someone to walk alongside her. She said that getting that email survey back in October, although she was suspicious of it, was the first time anyone had reached out to help her and her daughter.

A lot of people ask me why people didn’t seek out more help early on; I asked Latania this question. She said that she did apply for FEMA but did not get much help and didn’t know what more to do. She said she also tried to get help from some other local community agencies but that they weren’t able to help her. While we as LCS are working to do better to partner with community agencies so they can expand services when disaster strikes, in many cases it is only from faith based disaster programs like Lutheran Disaster Response – Eastern PA that there is any safety net at all. Thank you so much for the support you provide so we are able to walk with Latania, while she herself is doing the heavy lifting.

Linda puts it better, “It continues to amaze me how grateful people are. They thank me for what I have done but the bottom line is they are doing the work.

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