AYDEN, N.C. — In 2005, Willie and Geraldine Williams bought their home in Greene County.
What You Need To Know
Rebuild N.C. is tasked with helping people rebuild after natural disasters
The state program uses federal funds
For nearly 3 years, the Williams family has lived in a hotel after the program began demolition on their home, but then stopped
It became a place where they gathered with friends and family, sometimes providing a place to stay for those who needed it.
Then Hurricanes Matthew and Florence hit. The home needed work, and Willie Williams took some of that on. He spent tens of thousands of dollars. Then he heard about Rebuild N.C., a state program designed to use federal funds to help North Carolinians rebuild after natural disasters.
The couple applied and got approved, but that’s when everything started to go wrong.
“We thought we was about to move in our house. They told us we was going to move in our house in two weeks. Two weeks later, they changed and says they stopped work on the house and we can’t move in,” Willie Williams said. “They was going to go from a repair to a rebuild. Then they just left it.”
That was over a year after they had moved out of their home. They were told work was about to start in late 2019, and they moved into a hotel. The program covered the cost of that hotel, and the other hotels they have lived in for almost three years since.
Willie Williams says he and his wife kept getting different answers about timelines.
“We’re going to start in four months, and you should be back in your home in six months,” Willie Williams said.
Contractors tore through the walls, took off the brick exterior and removed windows. Then they left.
During the past three years, Willie Williams had a heart attack and Geraldine Williams got COVID-19 twice.
While they wait for answers, and the house decays, they are still paying their mortgage.
Their home now sits in disrepair. It isn’t a charity case that left them behind, it’s a government program.
Willie Williams says he’s tried to get answers, but no clear information has been available.
“We was told that the contractors was hiring other contractors who was hiring subcontractor, and they all was doing substandard work,” he said.
They originally thought they would be out for three months. They were provided with storage containers to keep their belongings on their property. Everything is ruined, he says, covered in rat droppings and spiders.
“Most of this stuff’s going to have to be thrown out. We can’t use, we can’t put stuff in our home like this. This was a new shirt when it was put in here, but all of this is rat stuff,” he explained.
After years of trying to get answers, the Williamses and other affected families spoke in front of the North Carolina General Assembly. It was part of a committee meeting where lawmakers questioned the heads of the North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resiliency.
The lawmakers were visibly angry when they asked how so many people had been left behind. There are more than 3,000 North Carolinians still working their way through the program, whose homes haven't been repaired.
The majority aren't living in hotels, but the Williamses aren't the only ones who have been displaced for over a year. Geraldine Williams shared how she has to do dialysis daily in the hotel room.
“I have to keep my supplies and materials covered for when housekeeping comes in. I can’t do all the cleaning myself. I have nowhere to store it. Like I said, I have no stove. I have no refrigerator. I have no closet. I have nothing,” she said.
They left the committee with no real answers, only promises that things would change.
The Williamses will go back to the hotel as their house sits, continuing to decay.
“It’s just terrible, and I just wonder why can’t I get my house worked on. It’s been almost three years. November will be three years I’ve been out of my house,” Willie Williams said.
Spectrum News 1 reached out to the N.C. Office of Recovery and Resiliency.
And a NCORR spokesperson provided the following statement:
"The North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resiliency is dedicated to improving its programs and helping storm survivors return home as quickly as possible. While recent policy and program changes are steps in the right direction, NCORR will continue to work with state leaders to evaluate recovery progress and identify additional improvements.”
Editor's Note: This article has been updated with a statement from the N.C. Office of Recovery and Resiliency.