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Hundreds wait in heat for last chance at flood-relief aid

South side residents lined up Calumet Park apply for aid from Illinois Department Human Services for homes businesses damaged after

South side residents lined up in Calumet Park to apply for aid from the Illinois Department of Human Services for homes and businesses damaged after storms and flooding this spring. | Nausheen Husain~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 23, 2013 6:13AM

Gregory Davis spent the first few hours of the first day of summer waiting in line.

Davis, 52, who is blind, waited from 1 a.m. to about 10 a.m. Friday, one of hundreds who waited at the Family Community Resource Center in West Pullman for the last chance to get flood-relief aid for damage from this spring’s storms.

“I had a couple feet of water in the basement,” said Davis, who lives on 62nd Street. “Everything down there, the washing machine, clothes, furniture, it was all ruined.”

To qualify for up to $668 of food stamps, flood victims needed to live in affected areas, have damage to their home or business, paid disaster-related expenses that were not reimbursed, or loss or reduction of income as a result of the floods.

Residents brought with them any receipts they had saved for disaster-related expenses.

Besides waiting in the 90-degree heat Friday for hours, applicants needed to answer basic questions about income and damages before receiving aid, said Caprisca Randolph-Robinson, Department of Human Services regional administrator for Region 1 South, which includes the south side of Cook County. About 1,600 people applied each day at the center since the program began June 17, Randolph-Robinson said.

“Monday was the lightest load of people,” she said. “Now, people are calling each other on the phone saying, ‘Come on over!’”

Sisters Ajanee Williams, 29, and Shacora Jackson, 38 — prepared for the wait with chairs and water bottles — said they heard about the benefits from one of their friends.

“The flooding came up about eight stairs in my basement. I had a washing machine, dryer, deep freezer, clothes, furniture, everything was destroyed,” Williams said. “It was disgusting.”

Williams said she was open to get any kind of help. “I’m appreciative of whatever they can do, I’m not greedy,” she said.

Although the Department of Human Services website states that applications would only be accepted until 1 p.m. Friday, but Randolph-Robinson said she hadn’t been given an exact time they’d stop taking applications.

“We’re going to do our best job to be able to serve as many people we can,” she said. “It’s going to be a long day.”

Gregory Davis’ waiting ended around the time many applicants were just arriving at the center. He said he received $200 in food stamps.

“$200 is a help for me. I’m on a fixed, low income. For me, it’s better than nothing,” he said. “I feel like it was worth it to sit out here all night and wait.”

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