New Jersey residents displaced by Hurricane Ida now faced with more uncertainty

ELIZABETH, New Jersey -- Tucked under the flight path of Newark Liberty Airport and nestled between the turnpike and a Jersey mall is a place few would want to call home.

Sherrise Simmons is one of hundreds of Oakwood Plaza tenants in Elizabeth, who have been forced for months to temporarily live in a hotel - displaced by the remnants of Hurricane Ida - a storm that obliterated their homes and killed four of their neighbors.

The property is owned and managed by CIS - HUD subsidizes units. Now, almost three months later, tenants are faced with uncertainty again.

Residents say they have to leave the hotel by December 16, because they say the city tells them FEMA funding has run out. However, they say when they call FEMA, they are told otherwise.

They say the management company is offering them alternative housing at locations they partner with HUD with. The problem is, some of those locations are as far away as south of Trenton and the Jersey Shore.

"I have to start all over. Like I'm starting my life all over at the age that I am. I'm too old for that, but I have to start over," said Yvette Stephens.

Stephens lost everything in the storm - but at least she has been able to keep working for now. She works at the airport, but if she relocates hours away to where she is being offered a place, she will not be able to keep her job.

"When you leave where you're at every day, you got a home to go into. We have to go into the hotel every day not knowing what's going to happen," Stephens adds.

"You can't just uproot people from their homes. Places where they're established, where their kids go to school at, where their doctors is at, all that kind of stuff, where they work at," said Salaam Ismial of the National Youth Council.

Tenant advocates say they just want a meeting with the mayor's office, the apartment management complex, FEMA and HUD - something they haven't even had once yet.

In a statement, a FEMA spokesperson says,

"It's important to note that Non-Congregate Sheltering is a local program. However, FEMA does provide partial reimbursement for it. In other words, it's managed locally, reimbursed federally when requested."

Eyewitness News reached out to the mayor's office, the management company and HUD, but have not heard back.

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