Hurricane

Last family out of disaster shelter heads home to uncertain future

Red Cross disaster shelters in Beaufort and Bluffton closed Friday. Food and water will still be distributed at locations on Hilton Head Island and St. Helena Island.
Red Cross disaster shelters in Beaufort and Bluffton closed Friday. Food and water will still be distributed at locations on Hilton Head Island and St. Helena Island. lhigh@islandpacket.com

A complicated mix of emotions danced across the faces of the Fields family Friday morning as they loaded a van with clothes and supplies from the Red Cross shelter at Battery Creek High School.

After being cooped up in the Beaufort shelter since Monday, the family of nine — including three young children and a month-old infant — was looking forward to heading home to St. Helena Island.

But how much of home remained, no one knew.

The Fields were the last family to leave before the Red Cross shut down its Hurricane Matthew shelters at Battery Creek and Bluffton High schools.

Felicia Fields has heard reports from neighbors that the condition of the family home “might not be really that good.”

“We are concerned, but we are going to see what’s going on with (the house),” she said.

Her niece Jahana Fields said the family “is just worried about all our stuff.”

“We have no idea what’s going to be left,” she said.

Felicia said “we are praying that everything is good. But if it isn’t, we are going to have to find (some place) better for the family,” she said.

Where that better place might be, “we really don’t know,” Felicia said.

Before closing the shelter Friday, Red Cross volunteers gave the family information on support services that may be available if their home is badly damaged.

“Hopefully they can help us find some help if we need it,” Felicia said.

Whatever happens, the Fields said they will continue to lean on family to get through.

“We are all we have,” Jahana said.

While the Fields said they were relieved to getting out of the shelter, they spoke highly of their experience there.

“It wasn’t as bad as you would think it would be,” Felicia said. “The (volunteers) from Red Cross are excellent. They helped with the babies and everything.”

In a situation as dangerous as Hurricane Matthew, “you can’t really complain” about conditions in the shelter, Jahana said.

“They gave us enough pillows and blankets and everything we needed,” she said.

But being away from home for days at a time “has been hectic” for the kids, Felicia said.

“They are used to being able to go outside and play.”

While the Red Cross shelters closed Friday, food and water will continue to be distributed at St. Helena Elementary School and the Hilton Head Island schools complex on Wilborn Road.

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