PLEASANTVILLE, N.J. (AP) — For Jose L. Morales and Amanda Naylor, the heartbreak of losing their family’s possessions during a house fire Oct. 24 has been followed by more than a month of frustration.
The family of six is staying in one room at the Homestead Lodge on the Black Horse Pike while they talk to public adjusters, their insurance company and their mortgage company to see what will happen to their fire-damaged home on Linden Avenue.
“We can’t afford to stay here and pay a mortgage,” said Naylor, 33.
Naylor and the couple’s three daughters were not home at the time of the fire, but the children’s father, Morales, and their youngest child and only boy, 5-year-old Jose “Bubba” Jr., were.
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To escape the burning house in time, Morales threw his son from a second-floor porch into the arms of a stranger who was passing by. Morales himself jumped from the second floor and landed on trash cans and concrete, hurting his leg.
There was no time to grab anything. They were only able to salvage items that were not too fire or smoke damaged once the fire was out.
City firefighters investigated, but the cause of the fire inside the old home is unknown.
Morales, Naylor and their children had been living there for 15 years. The parents have home insurance, but they are afraid all their insurance money will be eaten up paying for what’s left of their mortgage, with no money remaining for rebuilding.
While searching for temporary housing, they learned New Jersey law states they need three bedrooms because they have six people total, but three-bedroom apartments rent for about $1,500 a month.
The place they are staying at now at $350 weekly costs more than their mortgage, Morales said.
“I need the insurance to hurry up and do something,” Naylor said. “There are people here (still at Homestead Lodge) from Hurricane Sandy.”
The assistance the family received that was most needed and was most helpful was $1,300 in emergency assistance from the American Red Cross. That allowed them to buy some clothes, as all their clothing was destroyed in the fire.
Laura Steinmetz, communications director of the Red Cross’ New Jersey region, said families who lose their home in a fire will receive a client assistance card that provides immediate help, but they also receive a referral packet for the county in which they live that provides further assistance.
The $1,300 the family received from the Red Cross was provided to the agency by a grant from the United Way, said John Emge, regional executive director of United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey.
Families that experience fires can call 211 or 866-964-7922 or visit 211sepa.org to get connected to local health and human services.
Naylor said United Way gave the family the 211 number, and through 211, they scheduled an appointment with the Community FoodBank of New Jersey for this past Wednesday.
Some of the problems the family is facing are caused by the fact both parents work, which means their income is too high for some assistance programs.
Naylor works at Babies R Us, and Morales is a cook at Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill inside Caesars Atlantic City, but currently, they are living mostly on Naylor’s salary as Morales is out on disability from the leg injury he sustained jumping off his roof.
Forrest Gilmore, the Atlantic County Family & Community Development department head, said families affected by fire can visit his department’s offices Monday through Friday at 1333 Atlantic Ave. in Atlantic City.
They can fill out paperwork to see whether they are eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or Comprehensive Emergency Assistance, or SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known commonly as food stamps.
Naylor said she has been to the county offices twice and had her least luck there, but hopes the SNAP benefits she already receives will increase.
As the parents deal with trying to secure permanent housing for the entire family, they are trying to keep life normal for Bubba; Ellena Morales, 11; and Tyeisha Morales, 13.
Their oldest child, Tatiana Morales, 18, who helps make sure her younger siblings continue to attend school, started a GoFundMe page for the family at gofundme.com/4oydvbc.
“Now, it’s so chaotic. It’s not a daily routine anymore,” Naylor said.
Information from: The Press of Atlantic City (N.J.), http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com