“If I’m unable to work after so long, they let you go,” she said.
While displaced, Savoie's 17-year-old, Ressa, is missing school, where she is studying forensic science. Ressa's boyfriend, Timothy, is also missing school, where he is working to get his HVAC license, as well as his job working nights at a supermarket.
Thousands of people with the resources to do so fled before Ida — one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to strike the U.S. — roared ashore in Louisiana on Sunday. But many without the funds for gas or a hotel room were left behind.
Savoie, 39, said she tried to plan ahead to get herself, the babies and the three teenagers out of harm's way. She booked a room at Motel 6 three days ahead of time, and they all loaded into her small SUV on Saturday with just a few outfits apiece and some cash, "thinking we would return quickly after.”
With limited resources, staying at a hotel for much longer is not really an option. Savoie said she's also going to run out of diapers soon.
Savoie said she applied for assistance for her family through the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Monday, but had not heard back. She was able to finally get through to the Red Cross after multiple calls and an hour on hold, but was told the agency could only help her if she made it to a shelter.
Staying at a shelter is something Savoie is trying desperately to avoid at a time when the delta variant of the coronavirus is raging through Louisiana, a state with one of the highest rates of new virus cases per capita and one of the lowest vaccination rates in the U.S.
“Shelters are not COVID-safe,” she said. “I’d rather sleep in my car.”
Leah Willingham is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
In this photo provided by Shelly Savoie, Timothy Auxilien and Ressa Savoie sit in a hotel room with their 6-month-old daughter, August, and Ressa's siblings, Julian and twins Summer and Winter, in Bossier City, La., on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021. The family is staying in Bossier City after evacuating from their home in Jefferson Parish, La., on Saturday to escape Hurricane Ida. Ressa's mother, Shelly, said they were able to pay for a hotel room for a few nights after their home was damaged during the storm, but said they don’t have money to stay longer. (Shelly Savoie via AP)
Credit: Shelly Savoie
Credit: Shelly Savoie