In a Louisiana bayou town, Hurricane Ida continues to wreak havoc

Jenny Schexnayder, 52, a program manager at Nicholls State University who lives 30 miles from Houma, said her home suffered nearly $200,000 in damage that her insurance company had largely refused to cover for months , until it changed course in June under threat of litigation.

“We survived. We weathered the storm,” she said. “All we’re trying to fix is ​​so we can feel safe for the next storm.”

Lawyers representing two apartment complexes filed suit in federal court on August 17, alleging that a carrier, Steadfast Insurance Co., refused to fully cover damages caused by Ida. Belmere Apartments in Houma and Acadia Villas in Thibodaux say they suffered severe damage during the fury of the storm.

The Law360 legal information service, which reported for the first time on the lawsuit, said the filing could be the first of many as the cases’ statute of limitations nears. Three spokespersons for Zurich Insurance Group, Steadfast’s parent company, did not respond to an email seeking comment on the lawsuit.

“I don’t want to be homeless anymore”

Ida shattered houses and apartments in Houma, leaving many people without permanent housing in a city where the median household income was around $45,000 a year in July 2021, according to US Census Bureau data – around 20 000 dollars less than the national average.

The Houma-Terrebonne housing authority condemned almost all of the city’s 517 social housing units after the storm, leaving buildings mostly abandoned and tenants adrift.

Abandoned government housing in Houma.Emily Kask for NBC News

FEMA stepped in to try to fill the void, setting up trailer camps throughout the parish, according to Elizabeth Daigle, 42, a social worker and program manager at the South Central Louisiana Human Services Authority, or SCLHSA, a local government entity.

She said at least 120 families were staying in hotels or living with family members while waiting for additional FEMA housing. FEMA has deployed some $150 million in individual aid to the parish, according to a parish official, but many residents are still struggling to find and maintain permanent homes.

“We have a housing shortage here,” said Earl Eues, director of the Terrebonne Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. “Even before the storm, we had very little available to the people who were here, and the storm only exacerbated that problem,” he said, referring to social housing.

Ida struck at a financially perilous time for Amee Autin. During the first months of the pandemic, the 50-year-old retail store manager had to stop working and collect disability benefits because she suffered painful complications following a diagnosis of scoliosis in his childhood. When the storm came, she was almost broke.

Aimee Autin at her home in Houma, La.
Aimée Autin at her home in Houma.Emily Kask for NBC News

The storm destroyed his social housing – cracked foundations in the bedroom, flood water and mold seemingly everywhere in sight. The building was condemned and she started living in a hotel room with the help of Start Corp., a local non-profit organization that provides medical and mental health services.

Autin recently rented a small house, but she’s deeply concerned that her monthly disability checks won’t be able to cover the monthly rent of around $1,000 and the basic necessities to survive for much longer — and she knows. that affordable housing in the area has become increasingly scarce. .

“I have to cover gas, lights, insurance, medicine, household supplies, toilet paper, paper towels, normal needs – needs, not wants. Everything is so outrageous. I fight every day. Austin said. “I don’t want to be homeless anymore.”

“Houma was my refuge,” she added. “But now that I’m older, it’s not my safe place anymore.”