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Fayetteville, N.C. — During Hurricane Florence, I met a woman who lived under a bridge until floodwaters forced her out. Her name is Judy. She survived Florence, and now she’s trying to live, in a life filled with struggles.
In mid-September, the Cape Fear River rose past its banks, pushing the people living under a bridge out of the only place they called home. That’s when and why we met Judy.
“I’ve got a towel and a bar of soap,” she said. Everything she owned was in a grocery bag or on her back.
As time passed and the floodwater receded, many of you asked about her. On Monday, I went back to the bridge. The river is now calm. Some of the homeless again have a home.
I didn’t find Judy. I did see the floor mat in front of a tent, some food and a bent Christmas tree.
I walked to the other side of the bridge. Nothing. To another bridge. There, someone had seen her last month, another two days ago or an hour ago. Word got around, and then she found me.
“God is still good,” she said with a laugh. “He’s still good, you know, and I got my life.”
It’s a tough life.
“We’re still struggling,” she said. “I’m here, and I’m alive, but we’re still struggling.”
Judy told me she eats food provided by churches and what she finds in dumpsters.
She and her boyfriend left their camp.
“I don’t want the memory,” she said. “It’s all messed up. Everything we had is waterlogged. We couldn’t salvage anything.”
She was sleeping in an abandoned motel, on the concrete floor, then someone loaned her a roof. Now she’s living in a car, one she soon may have to give back.
“I need a home. I need clothes, shoes. I need a bath tub, a place to take a shower, a table to eat at,” she said.
In the meantime, she looks for work and tries to overcome the inertia of having almost noting.
“I’ve been banned from a couple of places,” she said. “A lot of people call you names, say things to you, tel you you stink. ‘Why don’t you take a bath?’ ‘Get a job.” You know.
“It is what it is, but they don’t have to be so mean,” Judy said. “I’m just down on my luck. It just happened.”