Nonprofit pays for 44 families' hotel rooms when housing aid for San Diego flood victims ends

The Harvey Family Foundation said it would pay the National City Ramada $25,000 to let dozens of families continue to stay through Tuesday

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Five months after the historic flooding that devastated parts of San Diego and displaced thousands of people, and emergency temporary housing program for victims ended Friday, leaving many of those whose homes remain unlivable without a place to stay.

As of Friday morning, more than 350 households – about 1,200 people – were part of the program, many of them staying at the National City Ramada, among other hotels. By Friday afternoon, 44 families were still at the Ramada, unable to return home and unsure of where to go.

Hours after checkout , the nonprofit Harvey Family Foundation said it was stepping up to pay the Ramada $25,000 to let those 44 families continue to stay through Tuesday. Foundation officials plan to work with city leaders through the weekend on solutions beyond then.

“This situation is devastating, and I just hope that the city and the county can somehow figure out a solution for these families, because we see there’s young kids and single moms who are in the back right now crying, asking us, ‘Can you please help us? What is the solution?’ ” said Armon Harvey of the Harvey Foundation.

Harvey said he believed officials – having twice extended the program – should have done more long-term planning on repairs to get people back into their homes.

Yamil Cervantes was among the people moving out of the Ramada Friday. The nursing student was living with her grandparents and two cousins when she and her family were forced out after the water rushed into their home in late January.

"We didn’t know what to do," Cervantes said. "We didn’t know what we were going to eat, because, obviously, we had, like, lost everything."

Cervantes said her family lost multiple cars in the flooding and, in just days, had to clear out nearly all of their belongings from their home.

"Literally, like, eight years of our lives in that house," Cervantes said. "We had to, like, get rid of stuff and minimize it so it could fit in one storage unit — like all of our stuff, the whole family, one storage unit. We got rid of furniture, clothes, devices that obviously we lost, personal items. We just had to prioritize the things that we actually needed and then everything else we just had to, like, throw it out."

Cervantes and her cousin Dasha Patino Cervantes, along with the rest of their family, couch-surfed before landing at the Ramada three months ago. The damage to their home was so extensive – and the insurance process so difficult – that, she said, repairs were still ongoing Friday, leaving their home unlivable even as the housing program came to an end.

“Being homeless for six months is not pretty," Patino Cervantes added.

The cousins said they were grateful for their time in the hotel, even if it was stressful at times.

"It's not fun because people are always knocking on your door like, 'Are you ready to get out?' " Patino Cervantes said. "They're always pressuring you to get out."

For now, the Cervantes family planned to split up and stay with different relatives while they wait to return home.

A county spokesman said the county board allocated $33.7 million for the recovery effort, and residents unsure of their next move need to contact the city’s or their local housing authority to transition to longer-term solutions, noting that the county worked for several months to ensure impacted residents had shelter, food and mental health services.

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