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Community volunteer offers shelter to those displaced after Hurricane Laura in Lake Charles

Posted at 6:03 PM, Mar 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-16 19:54:37-04

LAKE CHARLES — Imagine sleeping in the front seat of your car for three months after losing everything in a hurricane. This became the harsh reality for one Lake Charles resident, Leanna Joseph.

"It was unusual," says Joseph. "It was the first time for me. I never thought I would be in that predicament."

After the hurricane, Joseph was forced out of her apartment complex due to dangerous conditions. She fled to Texas, where she stayed with relatives for a while and found herself checking in and out of the hospital due to her poor health conditions.

Joseph began to reach out to FEMA to gain support and somewhere to stay when she returned home, but received nothing.

"I've done everything that FEMA has asked," she says. "I've appealed what I needed to appeal, I've answered their letters, I have given the information they needed, and there is still no place for me to go."

Upon returning home to Lake Charles, Joseph resorted to sleeping in her car for the next three months.

"The backseat is full of stuff like water and my food," says Joseph. "So I sleep in the driver's seat, with the seat laid back. I can't even put my feet up to stretch out."

Finally, Rebecca Johnson, a community volunteer who works closely with organizations like the Cajun Navy, heard about Joseph's situation and stepped in to help.

"This is a hard working woman," says Johnson. "Who has paid her taxes, who's done her time, has severe health issues, was forced to retire and now has nothing, absolutely nothing, and no resources to help her."

Johnson says that Joseph is not the only one who is suffering and in desperate need of support. She has taken in three other individuals from Lake Charles who found themselves in the same situation as Joseph.

"The resources just aren't there," says Johnson. "I am not understanding where the money is and where the resources are. There are tons more in Lake Charles who are in the same predicament."

Johnson encourages anyone who is seeking support or additional resources to help get back on their feet to reach out to local city officials and organizations like the Cajun Navy for guidance.
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