Days after Sandy, finding relief at shelters

A few dozen people take refuge from Hurricane

A few dozen people take refuge from Hurricane Sandy at a Red Cross shelter in Deer Park, N.Y. (Oct. 29, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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Louisa Givens went four days without eating. Any food she had, a piece of fruit, the last few slices of bologna, she cut up and gave to her daughter.

Givens, 19, lost electricity on Monday, as Sandy's fierce winds struck Long Island. As the days went by, it started getting colder. She bundled up her two children in jackets, hats and gloves and lay with them in bed to keep them warm.

Then, on Thursday, she ran out of food at her Ronkonkoma apartment, where she lives with her children, Ava, 2, Kayden, 3 months, and her husband, Daniel.

"I can't have them not eat -- they are my children," Givens said. She went to the Red Cross shelter at the Sachem East High School in Farmingville on Thursday. The electrician who works at her apartment complex drove her there, where she is staying with her two children while her husband is working in Brooklyn.

As soon as she got to the shelter, she got everything she needed -- food, baby formula, clothes and diapers, she said. The shelter's "main priority is the children and that's what I love."

When asked what has gotten her through this difficult time, she glanced at her cot and said "them," looking right at her two children.

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Hundreds of people and families are living in shelters throughout Long Island in the wake of Sandy, according to the Red Cross. Many are grateful for the roofs over their heads and the food in their stomachs, but frustrations and tensions are growing as the days go by and many are stuck at the shelters without a way to go home or a place to go to.

Delana Ballard said her family is "lucky to be alive" after her Long Beach home flooded. Ballard has been staying at a shelter at Nassau Community College in Garden City with her three daughters and boyfriend since Tuesday.

She said she is grateful for the service the Red Cross is providing, like painting the children's faces and giving out candy on Halloween. But she said she is getting distressed with the shelter's atmosphere -- "everybody is at everyone's throats."

Ballard's daughter, Destiny Jackson, 14, said: "You just sit in one place for the whole day and there is nothing to do . . . I'm just depressed and I don't want to be here."

Bella Gennusa, 10, was in good spirits as she sat on steps outside of the college's shelter with her father, Steve. Bella said she has been passing the time by doing cartwheels, playing tag with friends there and taking showers.

The Gennusas' Island Park home was flooded, filling their basement and first floor. Steve Gennusa said they lost a car and pickup truck.

Gennusa said he was worried he won't have a job at the Middle Bay Country Club, which was damaged by the storm. He said he also did side jobs, like snow removal, but his equipment was stored in his garage and was destroyed.

"I lost all the means to make money," he said. The family spent Tuesday night on the untouched second floor because there was no way to get out of their neighborhood. Once the waters retreated, they went to the shelter.

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"They are very helpful," he said, of shelter personnel. "They are always coming by, asking if we are OK."

He said his family and meeting new people get him through the day, but says he is still very stressed, knowing his home and livelihood have been destroyed.

"I just want my life back," he said. "That's not gonna happen."

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