Red Cross plans to close final Hurricane Florence shelter in Cumberland County

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— It’s been about three weeks since Hurricane Florence forced thousands from their homes and into shelters. Cumberland County operated nine shelters during the storm, and the Red Cross is making plans to shut down the final shelter in operation.

The shelter at the Smith Recreation Center has been home for Warren Pharaoh for about a week. He took the advice of emergency workers and fled from his Spring Lake home near the Little River just before Hurricane Florence arrived.

“My house was destroyed. It’s still standing, but I had five feet of water in it, and the city condemned it,” he said.

Samuel Johnson and Mia Street were homeless and living in a tent when the storm hit. The couple had no place to go.

“It was terrifying. My tent got flooded out, (I) lost everything, and I’m five months pregnant with a baby,” Street said.

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At the peak of the storm, more than 1,000 people sought shelter in Cumberland County. By Oct. 5, those remaining had been consolidated to Smith Recreation Center.

“We’re under 60 people right now and so we’re working with them, with case workers and other partners in the community to help them on their recovery and see what resources they need and how we can connect them,” said Phil Harris, executive director of the Red Cross.

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After living in three shelters, Pharaoh is one of the lucky ones.

“They’re going to find me a place, and they’re working on it, and that’s the first good news that I’ve heard since I’ve been here,” he said. “I’ve been worried for weeks, and I got good news yesterday.”

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The shelter at the Smith Recreation Center will close Tuesday and the hope is that the Red Cross and other agencies will find places for the remaining 60 people to stay.