Robeson County community members seek to help flood victims in motels

The remains of the Lumberton home where Sally and Monroe Sinclair had to flee by boat after Hurricane Matthew

LUMBERTON, NC (WBTW) – Months after Matthew, the recovery in Robeson County is far from over. Many are now wondering how they can help the hundreds still far from home.

120 days–that’s almost four months. That’s how long officials tell us many Robeson County families have been living in motels in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.

Now that the deadline for that aid is approaching, it’s not just help getting out of those hotels that these folks need, it’s a place to stay.

Former Lumberton Mayor Coble Wilson, Jr. knows Lumberton like the back of his hand,.

“I lived and worked on West 5th Street all my life,” Wilson said. “That’s where our family business was. We had never saw any flooding over there.”

That’s why he said he was surprised at just how fast–and powerful–the flood waters were last October.

“It just caught everybody by surprise,” he said. “The rains kept coming, the rivers were flooded, the ditches were full, the water had no place to go.”

Wilson said even in his term as Mayor– not all that long ago–he never imagined devastation like that left by Hurricane Matthew.

“When I was mayor in Lumberton, we built the dike, and we had a Hundred-Year Flood,” said Wilson. “Now they’re telling us that this was a Thousand-Year Flood!”

He said perhaps worse than the flooding are the many lives completely uprooted by the waters.

“They’re finding out that their homes cannot be rebuilt or restored and they’re being condemned.”

Nearly four months after the storm, Wilson and others in Robeson County are afraid their community might be forgotten at a time when many still affected need help.

“They’ll say, ‘They’re ok now,’ and that’s not necessarily the case,” said Wilson.

In light of that, local government and volunteers are doing what they can to connect those about to run out of time in local motels with a place to rent. A program through the Robeson County Department of Social Services is asking anyone who could take in in a flood victim to help a neighbor out.

“It’s just a way for us to find out what property is available in the county and surrounding counties,” said Emily Jones with Robeson County DSS.

The former mayor also called on those who are able to give what they can.

“We encourage everybody not to forget those who are living in motels and need help,” he said.

If you are a renter or even an individual with a place to stay, contact the Robeson County Disaster Hotline at (901)-671-3563

The local United Way in Lumberton is still taking donations, not only of clothes,etc., but furniture and other household items.