Angela Mills: “We will never take the word ‘home’ for granted.”
Toms River, NJ
On October 29, 2012, rain pounded on the apartment in Toms River where Angela Mills and her 21-year-old son Matthew lived; winds whipped and howled. But at some point, Superstorm Sandy seemed to die down, and Angela and her son still had electricity.
They thought the worst was behind them, that they’d been lucky.
“Suddenly we saw water seeping into the house from the front and back doors,” Angela recalls.
By the time Angela and Matthew raced up the stairs, the water was rising to her hips.
At dawn, they woke to a horrid stench. They knew that something was “very wrong,” as Angela put it. They would later discover that their home had been flooded with sewage.
By evening, the Mills and their three cats were guests at the nursing home where Matthew worked.
They had weathered the storm, but Angela and her son were unable to return to their home and had nowhere else to go.
“People take for granted the little things that come with having a home, like being able to put a magnet on your refrigerator,” Angela explains.
Angela searched for affordable housing, ready to settle for a single room, but “no one wanted to rent a room to a couple of people with three cats.”
Then, through an email from Children’s Home Society of New Jersey, Angela learned about Freedom Village in Toms River, a new affordable housing community that was funded with Sandy recovery dollars through the Fund for Restoration of Multifamily Housing Program. The complex was under construction at the time and, after seeing site plans and renderings, she applied immediately.
Angela knew of the 90-day priority period for Sandy victims, but thought her chances of being accepted were slim due to her poor credit and low income.
However, a few weeks after submitting her application, Angela got a surprise. She and her son were asked to interview with Freedom Village managers. As Angela recalls, “two of the sweetest women” filled her with optimism that day, because they pointed to Freedom Village’s plan and specified exactly where she and Matthew would live.
“That was the day the tide turned,” recalls Angela. And a month later, when her application was accepted, she felt as though “a huge weight had been lifted” from her and Matthew’s back. “We had a place of our own,” she says.
Angela and her son have been living in Freedom Village for a year now and she still feels blessed
“We were just going through the motions of living day-to-day. Now, with Freedom Village, our lives are changing.
“We will never take the word ‘home’ for granted. We have a place to rebuild our lives—a place to call home; Freedom Village is so beautiful and we have a perfect address: we live on Dream Court!”
Outreach activities ensure that low- and moderate-income and Limited English Proficient individuals and families who were impacted by Superstorm Sandy are informed about programs and services available to them. These resources are made possible by federal Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funding allocated to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) in response to the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy.
Outreach activities continue to be conducted for the Fund for Restoration of Multifamily Housing (FRM) Program, which is the State’s largest rental housing recovery initiative and is administered by the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, an agency affiliated with DCA.
The FRM Program provides zero-interest loans to housing developers to finance affordable housing development in the nine counties impacted by Sandy, including Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, and Union. Notably, the program requires that during the first 90 days of an FRM project’s lease-up, priority is given to qualified Sandy-impacted residents.
For more stories like this one, please visit Spotlight on Recovery.