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Disaster Center Set Up; Spruces Park Being Assessed
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
05:35PM / Wednesday, August 31, 2011
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Residents were being wheeled to their homes to gather belongings.

Update 9:21 a.m., Thursday: We've noted what departments are at the assisstance center. Also, Emergency Management Director Peter Fohlin informed us that an Individual Assistance Assessment team including representatives of several agencies including MEMA, FEMA, American Red Cross and Small Business Administration surveyed the Park as part of the Individual Assistance application process.

Phyllis Alcombright, left, speaks with state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi about conditions in the Spruces.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — A disaster assistance center has been established at the Williamstown Elementary School to aid Spruces residents and other affected by Tropical Storm Irene, and organizations are stepping in with shelter and supplies.

But the nearly 300 residents evacuated from the mobile home park are running out of time — and patience.

Dozens were at the park entrance again today to be escorted to their homes to pack up what they can in boxes and suitcases. They're waiting to find when — and if — they can return to home.

State and local building inspectors were assessing the more than 200 mobile homes in the crowded park. By noon, they'd gone through about half, finding most were unfit for occupancy but not a danger. Residents gathered around a color-coded map of the park wondering what category theirs would fall under.

Phyllis Alcombright, who's helping coordinate information with the Tenants Association, didn't have high hopes for her home, situated in the back of the park near the Hoosic River.

  Red: Unsafe to enter
  Yellow: Unsafe for occupancy
  Green: Safe for occupancy
Important Information
• Residents are being escorted to their homes to retrieve items. Insurance inspectors can enter the park once checking in at the gate
• Mail is being forwarded to the post office; it can be picked up there or forwarded to another address.
• One-time vouchers for $20 each for gas and food are available through 1st Congregational Church
• Housing options are available here or below.
• Updated information is being handed out daily at the park by Selectwoman Jane Allen

Disaster Assistance Center
Williamstown Elementary School gym (where you vote)

Includes Department of Mental Health, Department of Elder Affairs, Department of Housing and Community Development, Division of Insurance, Department of Labor, Department of Transitional Assistance, Department of Public Health.

Open 9 to 4 until Friday, Sept. 2; hours for next week have not yet been scheduled.

Donations may be sent to
MEMA Disaster Relief Fund
Spruces Tenants Association
c/o South Adams Savings Bank
273 Main St.
Williamstown, MA 01267

Some online applications available for federal disaster aid programs can be found here.

"There was mud over my ankles," she said. "I have no stairs — I don't know where they went."

Bonnie Andrews said there was raw sewage in her bathtub. Her daughter flipped through pictures on her camera to show the condition of the living room. A muddy line was clearly visible almost to the seat cushions on the couch; the once mauve carpet a dirty gray.

The river spilled several feet of muddy water into the flood-prone park on Sunday. Brian O'Grady, director of the Council on Aging, said the water was up to his hips by the time evacuated everyone was evacuated.

In addition to the disaster assistance center, a Red Cross shelter has been set up at St. John's Episcopal Church and a few people are still camped out at Town Hall; 1st Congregational Church has been helping with vouchers and referrals, St. Patrick's with necessities and food.

"The Congregational Church has been doing a wonderful job in giving out vouchers for housing and gas but they are running out of money," said Cynthia Clermont-Rebello, president of the Tenants Association.

Both the Redwood Motel just over the line in North Adams and the Ladbrook Motel on Route 7 in Pownal, Vt., have offered weekly rates of $150-$168 for evacuees. Cozy Corner is offering $225-$320, Green Valley $125-$200 and the Villager $40-$45 daily. Spruces residents should inform the motels that those are rates quoted to Health Inspector Jeffrey Kennedy.

But patience is wearing thin among the elderly residents and their families as they deal with displacement and disorientation. They want information and they want know where the state and federal officials are; they want to know where the governor is.

"He needs to get up here and look at this place," said an angry Mariel Morrisey, whose elderly mother had to be evacuated. "It's a dangerous situation. I can't believe how we're being treated."

Gov. Deval Patrick's office confirmed Wednesday that he will tour some of the damage in Williamstown late Thursday morning.

State Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, who's been stopping in at the Spruces to speak with residents daily, said Speaker Robert Deleo's office has been pushing for emergency money from the federal government. The president signed a "prelandfall" disaster declaration for the state on Friday night, two days before the storm hit.

There was a great deal of concern over the Spruces' aged population and the potential for homelessness, said Cariddi. Her office has been directing people to the North Adams Housing Authority, which has space. Because the residents are elderly, and some are handicapped and essentially homeless, they would have high priority.

"I have every confidence we will see the light of day and find our way out of this," she said.

Housing Options for Spruces Evacuees
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