North Carolina

Onslow homeless shelter the storm, return to the streets

(Getty Images)

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — Philip Johnson had been staying at the Second Chance Mission of Hope shelter in downtown Jacksonville for about a year before Hurricane Florence hit. During the storm he found himself with one other resident at the shelter, watching the basement slowly fill up with water.

After the storm passed, he said the director told him it was no longer safe to stay at the drowned and moldy location.

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So on Saturday, he left and started living on the streets.

"I'm homeless, I went through the hurricane and I'm living in the streets and it's all good," Johnson said. "You know, God provides."

Johnson is one of the homeless residents of Onslow County who stayed put locally for the storm, though others were evacuated on county buses.

The Onslow Community Outreach homeless shelter, which according to Shelter Director Cindy Williams is located in a very low-lying part of Jacksonville, had to move its residents following the mandatory evacuation order by the city.

"We had to close and we had to take our clients to the shelter over at (Jacksonville Commons Middle School)," Williams said. "And then our residents were transported to different shelters in other counties along with all the other residents from Onslow County that evacuated."

Williams said that although the recovery is slow-moving, things are getting back to normal.

The Onslow Community Outreach shelter holds 24 beds and houses people in need for 30-to-90 days, depending on their needs, according to Williams. After the storm, additional beds were added, but no one came to claim them. The shelter still has five beds available.

"The city and the county - they did an awesome job at handling a shelter here in town for individuals that became homeless after the storm and/or are waiting to get their properties fixed," Williams said.

Although he comes to the Onslow Community Outreach soup kitchen regularly, Johnson said he wouldn't want to live there.

"This mission is great, I just don't want to be tied down," he said. "I'm 62 years old. I don't want no rules."

Lonnie Parker, another regular at the soup kitchen, echoed the sentiment.

"I don't stay at no shelter . I live in the woods," Parker said. He had been residing in Onslow Pines for six months before Florence. "You got to get up at 6 o'clock in the morning. Then they got to put you out. Then you can't come back in until 7:00 o'clock . I can't do it."

When the storm hit, Parker rode his bike across the county and stayed at a friend's trailer on Graytown Road.

"He said, 'you're staying (here) because you know it gets bad at night,'" Parker recalled. "So I stayed inside a trailer. I made it through."

Another friend provided Parker with some food. After the weather cleared, Parker came back to Jacksonville - where he was born and raised - and resettled in the woods.

"It's alright but I don't like it out there. I'm basically trying to get me somewhere to go," Parker said. "I'm trying to get me a place, trying to get me a job, get myself together man."

Johnson said that what he needs most is some help with rent. He was putting off going to the Department of Social Services because of the long lines.

"If there's an agency that could help me with rent, help me get a place even for a week, and I could keep working and start paying my own way - I'd like that," Johnson said.

Proud of his independence and employment, he said he doesn't want a handout.

"I'd rather tough it out by myself," he said. "I got that Green Beret, Special Forces type of attitude."

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