Tuesday, March 11, 1997
With no home or job,
starting over means getting help

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Throughout Adams County, people displaced by last week's floods turned first to kin.

Then friends.

Finally, to others in their communities.

Without fail, responses were warm and embracing, residents recounted.

''These people didn't have much to begin with, and now they've got nothing,'' said Manchester Mayor Randy Yates.

Karen Rolph, 29, a divorced mother of three, was typical of many people displaced by the Ohio River in Manchester.

She was working two jobs and lived from paycheck to paycheck in a rented trailer.

The trailer and both jobs were flooded out, she's living on her last pre-flood $470 biweekly paycheck, and she has no flood insurance.

''I might take my vacation week last week,'' she said with an edgy laugh, salvaging toys in the sagging mobile home after flood waters receded. ''I never dreamed it would be like this.''

Too young to remember the Flood of 1964, she grabbed ''the kids and some clothes because we were going to be gone a couple days'' when swirling, brown water approached Fifth Street on March 2.

She and two children, Tiffany, 10, and Blake, 4, moved in with a sister, Rosie Copas, in Manchester.

Daughter Tabitha, 12, moved in with friends - Mayor Yates, his wife, Cindy, and their daughter, Danielle, 13.

''That was the lucky part,'' Ms. Rolph said. ''I had somewhere to go.''

So did her mother, Geneva Boone, and brother, Dewey Sweet, who lost their home in the rented trailer next door. They're staying with the Copas family, too.

Although she has lost almost everything, Ms. Rolph said that right now, her most pressing problem isn't money. ''I've got my last paycheck, and two volunteer firemen gave me a check for $200.''

Rental next obstacle

A greater challenge will be finding a home to rent at any price, especially one convenient to her children's schools and her full-time job at the Family Dollar Store and part-time work at nearby Ayers Eat & Treat.

Even if her rental trailer is not scrapped, she said, ''I'm not bringing my kids back to this.'' She hasn't even let them see what water did to their clothes, furniture, books and toys.

''My little guy, he don't understand. He just wants to go home.''

Until their lives resume anything like normalcy, Ms. Rolph said, she'll have to learn to cope with her youngsters' unfamiliar reactions. ''They've been thrown out of everything they're used to.''

Monday, her boss, Cindy Yates, and Ms. Rolph began the sloppy, dirty job of packing Family Dollar Store stock for a salvage firm that bought it for less than 20 cents on the dollar.

How long that will last was uncertain, but Ms. Rolph expected another unpaid holiday until the store is ready to reopen.

Still, like most of the 3,000 displaced Adams County residents, from the flood plain along the Ohio and the hollows where flash floods destroyed or damaged homes, Ms. Rolph wasn't looking for sympathy or welfare.

''I'll have a job sometime,'' she said. ''I didn't have nothing to begin with and what I've got I've worked for. It's never been a free ride.''

Where to go from here

Most of the estimated 1,350 displaced Manchester residents were taken in by families and friends, but 100 found haven with Martha Bennett and other volunteers from the Salvation Army's service unit in the high school gym. She continues to house at least 80 each night.

The gym has been noisy and privacy has been zilch, but showers worked and people had adequate, clean clothes, and members of the Ohio Army National Guard always seemed happy to use their breaks to play basketball with flood refugees.

Mrs. Bennett, a supervisor of social services for Adams County human services, is a veteran flood relief worker, and she's concerned about where to send displaced residents when the gym is reclaimed.

''Nobody answers me,'' Mrs. Bennett said in a husky voice made raw by responding to non-stop demands for eight days. ''Why can't the government bring in mobile housing units?''

Officials at the emergency operations center in West Union said possibly 1,000 homes were lost countywide, and they were asking the same questions about housing, but had no answers for Mrs. Bennett.