BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - Even after being flooded out of their original home by Hurricane Katrina, Joyce and Joe Salpietra were still taken off guard by Hurricane Gustav's storm surge. They evacuated and left nearly everything behind, thinking they would return home to their MEMA cottage and resume their lives in Shoreline Park. What they found instead was another total loss.
"When we opened the door, it was just a terrible odor and everything was on the floor. Everything was topsy turvy," Joyce Salpietra said.
Later, they found a note on their door telling them what they already knew.
"It says the cottage has been declared uninhabitable for human occupancy by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency," Joyce said.
Other than the note, Joyce said she's found getting any further information or assistance nearly impossible.
"Every time I would call a number, they would give me somebody else to call. Finally, I got to Red Cross and they told me they had no funds and no place to put us because it was not declared a disaster."
Their old house has sat vacant because they can't afford to raise it to new FEMA flood standards. The MEMA cottage and everything in it was all they had.
"This was home. This was the only home we had, and here they put it three feet off the ground. And yet we couldn't rebuild our home because it had to be built up 17 inches. It's already at 10 foot."
They couple said their failing health makes them poor candidates for emergency shelters. Joyce said all they truly have now is each other.
"I would love to just cry my eyes out, but it wouldn't do any good. But it's gotten to the point where we don't know where to turn."
For those in need of help or a place to go in Hancock County, Red Cross officials said there are options. The Red Cross is still operating a shelter at the Lagniappe Church on Highway 90 in Bay St. Louis. There are medical professionals on site, so the shelter can assist those with special needs.
Starting Monday morning, the Red Cross will be in Hancock County doing damage assessments. It will provide monetary help to those needing temporary assistance with items like clothing and food.
For those in MEMA and FEMA trailers or cottages, you will have to follow up with those agencies to figure out more long-term housing arrangements. Since Mississippi is still waiting a federal disaster declaration, MEMA has no short-term options for people in cottages right now.
For more information, you can call the Red Cross at (228) 896-4511. MEMA can be reached Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm at 1-866-519-MEMA. FEMA's number is 1-866-877-6075.
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