Sandy victims: Life in a FEMA Camp feels like prison


Ashley Sabol, 21, of Seaside Heights, New Jersey looks over her accommodations at Tent City in Monmouth Park in Oceanport, New Jersey November 9. 2012. REUTERS/Michelle Conlin

“They treat us like we’re prisoners,” says Ashley Sabol, 21, of Seaside Heights, New Jersey. “It’s bad to say, but we honestly feel like we’re in a concentration camp.”

Reuters | Nov 10, 2012

By Michelle Conlin

OCEANPORT, New Jersey (Reuters) – It is hard to sleep at night inside the tent city at Oceanport, New Jersey. A few hundred Superstorm Sandy refugees have been living here since Wednesday – a muddy camp that is a sprawling anomaly amidst Mercedes Benz dealerships and country clubs in this town near the state’s devastated coastal region.

Inside the giant billowy white tents, the massive klieg lights glare down from the ceiling all night long. The air is loud with the buzz of generators pumping out power. The post-storm housing — a refugee camp on the grounds of the Monmouth Park racetrack – is in lockdown, with security guards at every door, including the showers.

No one is allowed to go anywhere without showing their I.D. Even to use the bathroom, “you have to show your badge,” said Amber Decamp, a 22-year-old whose rental was washed away in Seaside Heights, New Jersey.

The mini city has no cigarettes, no books, no magazines, no board games, no TVs, and no newspapers or radios. On Friday night, in front of the mess hall, which was serving fried chicken and out-of-the-box, just-add-water potatoes, a child was dancing and dancing — to nothing. “We’re starting to lose it,” said Decamp. “But we have nowhere else to go.”

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The tent city is emblematic of the crisis left by Sandy: the tens of thousands of people who have no place to live. Some are without power and heat – even if the utilities have their power back, their electrics and heating systems in their homes may have been destroyed by the floods. They are the short-termers. Others have a longer-term problem – their houses were made completely uninhabitable by flooding, ripped apart, or burned to the ground. And they pose a far more daunting challenge.

For now, all are without homes in one of the harshest housing markets in the world, with low vacancy rates and high rents. “There’s inventory in other parts of the country, but not here,” said University of Pennsylvania Wharton School Professor Susan Wachter.

To be sure, no one has been forced to stay in the tent city. But many say they have no other immediate option.

“This is an incredibly tough situation trying to find housing for these people,” said Federal Emergency Management Agency Public Affairs Manager Scott Sanders. “With winter coming, they obviously can’t stay there.”

FEMA has plans to bring trailers into New Jersey to increase the amount of temporary housing.

While FEMA is helping at the tent city, it is being run by the state of New Jersey. The state’s Department of Human Services did not immediately return calls seeking comment on Saturday morning.

Brad Gair, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s new emergency housing czar, has also talked about the complexities of post-disaster housing. The authorities in the region simply don’t have access to enough alternative housing or hotel rooms for all those who have been displaced. And all the problems this creates are on display here, where life has been even worse than during the storm, evacuees say.

BLANKETS AND PARKAS

One reason: the information blackout. Outside of the tightly guarded community on Friday, word was spreading that the Department of Human Services would aim to move residents to the racetrack clubhouse on Saturday. The news came after photos of people bundled in blankets and parkas inside the tents circulated in the media.

But inside the tent city, which has room for thousands but was only sheltering a couple of hundred on Friday, no one had heard anything about a move – or about anything else. “They treat us like we’re prisoners,” says Ashley Sabol, 21, of Seaside Heights, New Jersey. “It’s bad to say, but we honestly feel like we’re in a concentration camp.”

Sabol, who is unemployed and whose rental home was washed away in the hurricane, remembers being woken up on Wednesday at the shelter she was staying in at Toms River High School. Conditions there were “actually fine,” said Sabol.

Sabol was told that she had half an hour to pack: everyone was getting shipped to hotels in Wildwood, New Jersey, where they would be able to re-acquaint themselves with showers, beds and a door.

Sabol and about 50 other people boarded a New Jersey Transit bus, which drove around, seemingly aimlessly, for hours. Worse, this week’s Nor’easter snow storm was gathering force, lashing the bus with wind and rain.

After four hours, the bus driver pulled into a dirt parking lot. The passengers were expecting a hotel with heat and maybe even a restaurant. Instead they saw a mini city of portable toilets and voluminous white tents with their flaps snapping in the wind. Inside, they got sheets, a rubbery pillow, a cot and one blanket.

There was no heat that night, and as temperatures dropped to freezing, people could start to see their breath. The gusts of wind blew snow and slush onto Sabol’s face as her cot was near the open tent flaps. She shivered. Her hands turned purple.

It has taken three days for the tents to get warm.

Power workers from out of state who are helping utilities restore electricity to the area were starting to bed down in the tent city, too. Some empty vodka bottles appeared on the muddy street. There were now far more men than women or children, and the women said it was impossible not to notice the leering of some men.

Brian Skorupski, a manager with Tolland, Connecticut-based Asplundh Line Construction, had just rolled in with 50 workers, who were there to help restore power. Skorupski is used to his house in the suburbs. He missed his king-sized bed with his Hotel Collection sheets. “The only thing worse than this is sleeping in your truck,” he said.

16 responses to “Sandy victims: Life in a FEMA Camp feels like prison

  1. Pingback: (“Shut Up in a FEMA Camp Sandy victims are the police state’s guinea pigs,”) ~ Camp FEMA Update: ‘We Feel Like We’re In a Concentration Camp’ by Mac Slavo « CITIZEN.BLOGGER.1984+ THE.GUNNY.G BLOG.EMAIL

  2. Pingback: Another Conspiracy Theory Becomes Reality: “We Got F**ked” ~ General Motors Moves To China After U.S. Taxpayer $80 Billion Bailout And Old G.M. Buildings Being Converted To Active FEMA Concentration Camps! « Political Vel Craft

  3. what if this happend under bush when new orleans was hit with a strom?don’t worry obama is traveling and doing fine… he will be back sometime soon.he promised he would take care of you.. didn’t he?!

  4. yeah like the mafia takes care of business, nuttin poisonal.

  5. I have no sympathy…most of New Jersey and NY voted for Obama not once but twice…can’t he make it all better for you..after all you swallow his bs about how much he “cares”…isn’t that why you voted for him…on ” feelings”…not on facts and what he has done for the last 4 years-which is destruction.

  6. James I totally agree. If this had happened during Bush and he left them hanging like this we would hear all about it. No body seems to notice that Obama got in is photo ops and then just left it.

    That being said I have a hard time feeling a lot of sympathy for these People. Man I can imagine it’s hard living in those conditions I mean they have guards. Well stop looking at them as there to punish you,. They are there to ensure your safety you twit because there are a lot of people in there and you don’t know who they are and what they might do. Boo hoo you had to eat fried chicken and instant mashed potatoes, be glad you have something to eat! Or imagine sitting in a dirt trench behind a brick wall filthy with no way to wash up, eating your MRE while bullets are flying over your head. That fried chicken and Mashed potatoes in a nice safe tent would sound really good.

    And don’t worry about that little girl that’s dancing to no music. She is showing the great resiliency of a child and finding some joy in the face of adversity and making the best of a bad situation instead of sitting around and whining about the situation.

    If you have nothing to do take it upon your own initiative to reach out to a local church, or one of those businesses or country clubs that they say you are surrounded by and ask for donations of book, games, sorry, but you don’t have to have a TV. so that you will have something to occupy your time.

    Oh, and by the way, I don’t have to totally ‘imagine’ what they are going through. I lived my of my life on the Gulf Coast and went through several storms. I went 2 weeks without electricity with a 3week old baby who was allergic to disposable diapers. Spent much of my time handwashing diapers and hanging them on the bushes in the yard to dry.

  7. desiree Ambrose

    where are their debit cards with a couple thousand on them to find a place to stay? Like FEMA under Bush gave the Katrina victims? an din ALL OF NY AND NJ the can’t find hotel rooms for the remaining 50??? REALLY PEOPLE ARE YOU THAT STUPID?? evidently so. Where is MR. I love Obama Christie? Guess he got used to? don’t wanna show his face? Where are the Fema trailers? They should have been there a week ago. Children are living in these tents????? This is deplorable! deplorable! yet no one holds christie or the president accountable as they both go on with their lives in their comfortable homes at Thanksgiving..Christie show up to show support on Thanksgiving? NO he stayed in his nice heated home….. just sayin.

  8. Ashley Sabol could join the Army and go to Afghanistan if she wants better accommodations. After all, these are free aren’t they?

  9. The failure of government. At least after Katrina the displaced were put on busses to surrounding cities where local charities (churches) helped to get them re-established. In time, most have returned to New Orleans and rebuilt their lives. Why aren’t they put on buses? The Churches are out there. The fact this isn’t a bigger story is a sign that the press is doing soft-censorship so as not to embarrass Obama.

  10. There is something almost poetic about Obamabots being the first Americans forced to live in FEMA camps. As the economy deteriorates under Obama’s less than wise leadership it does my heart good to see some of these people get a taste of the government control they have beenso enthusiastically supporting. Just think–these are the same kind of folks who scoffed at the notion of such camps ever existing. In the unlikely event that there are some conservatives in these situations, take heart because you are there to educate. the dumb masses.

  11. Pingback: Op- Ed Thread - Page 13

  12. so tired of the complaining after a disaster, are you outside under a bridge? no. are you dead? no. They have to run the place with security and rules. with no order, there is chaos; fact. Remember all the crime, raped, drug use, and everything else that took place at the katrina camps? stop your damn whining. it is for the good of the group, not for the comfort of one.

  13. I have such mixed feelings reading this. I had a FEMA trailer after the 2006 floods in the Northeast. It took about a month before it arrived and more than a week for the setup–different teams to build the steps, connect the electricity, etc. I’m sure it’s better than the tents, but those trailers are not built for northern winters and it was really cold in there. Still, grateful to have had it, as I’m sure most of these people would be. But the whole experience is devastating and my heart goes out to people who have lost everything in a natural disaster.

  14. My heart goes out to all these people, what people need to remember is that could be any of us, Obama doesn’t care if your black or white , democrat or republican. He is on a mission to take America down,I’m sure when it comes down him & his little family have a country all prepared to take them in. The people that voted for him really believed he cared & that is sad because he only cares about his mission to Allah. Death to America. And if people really think that’s not the case then just watch what happens in the next year if we last that long.

  15. Diego Schmerber

    yes, this place sounds exactly like Auschwitz. Those poor hurricane victims. I’ll pray for them.

  16. Pingback: Another Conspiracy Theory Becomes Reality: “We Got F**ked” ~ General Motors Moves To China After U.S. Taxpayer $80 Billion Bailout And Old G.M. Buildings Being Converted To Active FEMA Concentration Camps! | Political Vel Craft

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