Russell Hayward lived with his wife, who has severe asthma, in a trailer in Long Beach, Mississippi, when Hurricane Katrina struck. With very little money and a car that was on its last legs, they were unable to evacuate before the storm and, thus, waited out the hurricane in a nearby brick building. When they returned home after the hurricane, their trailer was destroyed and the sewage line broken. For five days they waited for help, living on their front porch in 100 degree heat, with no electricity or water, with the smell of sewage and dead animals, and Ms. Hayward’s asthma getting worse. After four days, their neighbor’s phone finally received a signal. Mr. Hayward was able to reach a friend and was told they could stay with another friend in Pensacola, Florida, two and half hours away. Mr. Hayward and his wife left Mississippi with twenty-two dollars in their pocket, in a car with three-quarters of a tank of gas and four bald tires. Along the way to Florida, their car broke down and they sold it to a junk shop in order to get enough money to make it the rest of the way to Pensacola. In Pensacola, on September 7, 2005, they finally were able to register for FEMA assistance. Although they were told when they registered that they would receive a package explaining FEMA benefits, they never received any such package. Through the generosity of friends, Mr. Hayward and his wife were able to go to San Antonio, where friends had offered to put them up. They went to the Kelly USA DRC, joining thousands of other evacuees. On October 6, 2005, Mr. Hayward received, with no explanation or information, $2,358. Not knowing that this money was for rental assistance, Mr. Hayward spent it on food, clothing, and emergency dental work for his wife. Three weeks later, Mr. Hayward received a letter from FEMA, which had not been mailed until October 17, 2005, explaining that the money he had received had been for rental assistance. He called FEMA and was told that he could not receive additional financial assistance unless he could prove the money was used for rental assistance. When he tried to explain that he needed more money because he had spent the money on other essentials prior to being told that it could only be used for rental assistance, the FEMA worker hung-up on him.
(From Part III of the Complaint.)