Resilience – The Carson Family Story
Resilient. That’s the word that comes to mind when I am in the presence of Evelyn, Anthony and Anthony Carson, Jr.
The Carson family knows a little more than most about adversity. Evelyn, born with a rare bone disease, says she has had more operations that she can count, starting at the age of two. She now has trouble breathing and has to be connected to a machine at night. The family has been living in a house that was damaged by Hurricanes Matthew and Florence. Evelyn explains that her husband, Anthony Sr., and son, Anthony Jr., had been inhaling mold spores since a couple of months after Florence.
“The house was broken by both storms and it’s not been right since!” says Anthony Sr., in a voice peppered with obvious despair. It’s the despair that only dirty water and mold in your home can bring. “I fixed hair right here” says Evelyn as I tour the dark house in the Iron Hill community, that sits on family property her daddy left to the family. “We got one of those Jim Walter homes and put it here. The wind and the flood just messed everything up.”
Outside, the senior and junior Anthonys show me the water line on the house. It’s about 4 feet high. We stand off a ways so that we can see that the foundation seems to be sinking. Ghost, the family dog, is enjoying his daily meal, which the Carsons bring on visits back to the house. Ghost is not allowed to stay in their new apartment. I share pictures on my cell of my dog, Zeek, a white German shepherd, who could be Ghost’s twin brother.
Last month, Legal Aid of North Carolina referred the Carsons to Disability Rights North Carolina (DRNC). When supervising attorney, Iris Green, and advocate, Curtis Hill, began working with the Carsons, they found their immediate problem was finding affordable housing in their rural community. Evelyn receives disability benefits; Anthony Sr., who has a pinched nerve, cannot work regularly and plans to apply. Yet within a few days, Curtis found the Carsons a new home and connected them with much needed resources.
The Carsons are just one of more than 50 families DRNC’s Disaster Recovery Project has assisted since it launched in April 2019. Through the generous support of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, the American Red Cross, Portlight Inclusive Disaster Strategies and Operation USA, DRNC now has a dedicated full-time attorney and two full-time advocates in Eastern North Carolina helping people impacted by natural disaster. The team works directly with people with disabilities to overcome barriers, access funding, and secure services and supports. DRNC is also identifying, training and supporting community leaders to advocate with and for people with disabilities in their communities who have been displaced or damaged by Hurricane Florence.
Success stories like the Carsons are a community effort. In addition to DRNC’s legal advocacy for people with disabilities, our staff reached out to various organizations to help get the Carsons back on their feet. We contacted Catholic Charities who paid the rental deposit along with the first month’s rent and utility deposit for the Carsons. The Columbus County Forum assisted with food, clothing, gas, towels and water. Community CPR assisted with bed frames, new mattresses, blankets and linens. DRNC advocate, Andy Anderson, secured groceries from Father’s Cup Overflow Ministries in South Carolina and contacted Families First, which hosted a shopping spree at their thrift store. The Carsons are also working with Rebuild NC and say that they have been approved for assistance to reconstruct their home.
DRNC Disaster Recovery Advocate