Tuesday, April 15, 1997
Flood leaves family in tent
Housing scarce for six people with dog

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Robert Cole, his wife Mary, and their two daughters and two grandsons have only this tent in East Fork State Park to call home, after their rented trailer was lost in the flood last month.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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STONELICK TOWNSHIP - Mary Cole rushes her 8-month-old grandson out of the biting wind and into the large blue tent that she and her husband have called home for the past month in East Fork State Park.

Since floodwaters filled their Chilo trailer home, Mary and Robert Cole have been shuffling themselves, their two daughters and two grandsons from place to place, trying to find help.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) gave the Coles a check for $685, strictly for rent payments, but the couple hasn't been able to find a place nearby that will fit their extended family and will take their Labrador-chow mix dog, Jimmy, said Mr. Cole, 44, a disabled veteran.

Finding housing is a problem for many Clermont County residents who were flooded out of their homes, said Bill Duncan, director of the Clermont Metropolitan Housing Authority.

Low-income housing was scarce even before the flood, Mr. Duncan said. There are 300 people on a waiting list for the 230 public housing units in Clermont County, he said.

''The flooding made the shortage that much worse,'' he said.

The fact that the Cole family qualifies for federally subsidized Section 8 housing and gets part of its monthly rent paid by the housing authority puts them in a better position than some flood victims who weren't already getting assistance, Mr. Duncan said.

But the size of the family and their dog likely add to their trouble finding a place to stay, he said.

Section 8 housing allows for a maximum of two people per bedroom, Mr. Duncan said. So for the Cole family, to stay together, it needs at least three bedrooms, he said.

Prompted by calls from The Enquirer, the owners of the trailer the Coles had been renting and officials from the American Red Cross were working Monday to find the Coles a better place to stay.

Before hearing from the newspaper, the last contact the Red Cross had with the Cole family was March 26, said Carolyn Hodge, director of communications.

''They told us they were fine, that they were staying with relatives and looking for an apartment,'' she said.

When people's circumstances change, she said, it's important for them to check back with the Red Cross and get more help.

Officials from the Red Cross checked on Mr. Cole and his dog in the tent Sunday night at the campground to ask if he'd like to stay somewhere else, Ms. Hodge said.

The other family members were with friends in warmer places, but Mr. Cole wanted to stay put, she said.

The tent and tarps that Mr. Cole has made into a home weren't cheap. He spent half of the $800 he got from officials in Felicity and the Veterans Affairs office on the tent and tarps.

Mrs. Cole lives there much of the time, too, although she sometimes stays with Mr. Cole's sister so she can use the phone.

Their 16-year-old daughter, Angie, stays with friends on cold nights. When she stays at the campground, she sleeps in a smaller black pup tent that she wryly calls ''my room.''

Renee Cole, 20, and her two sons, James Horn, 8 months, and Matthew Horn, 2, have been staying with the children's other grandparents.

Mrs. Cole, 37, said the family simply wants to be together again. She laughs when James drips milk from his bottle onto her blouse, saying that she used to be covered in milk every day and misses that now.

''Here you are, doing all this, and trying,'' she says, staring at the kerosene heater that keeps the tent warm, ''trying not to ask for help.''

Mr. Cole said Monday that he would wait to see if the agencies can help his family.