Lisle flood victims get help at church shelter
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Victor and Ashley Atalla say their only asset is their cars.
Trouble is, their cars were parked at the foot of the ski hill in Lisle's Four Lakes complex when floodwaters swamped the area April 18.
More than a week later, the two vehicles — a 1991 Nissan 300 ZX and a 1996 Volkswagen Golf GTI the couple had bought just a month before the flood — don't work.
But instead of totaling their rides, Victor, 23, and Ashley, 22, are fixing them. Step by step. From their temporary home base at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lisle, where they and about 20 other Lisle residents displaced by flooding are spending their nights and free time in a shelter operated by church volunteers and the American Red Cross.
It's anything but ideal, and the Atallas, while grateful for a place to prevent them from being on the streets while their apartment remains uninhabitable, say they are frustrated.
"I went from suit and tie every day to homeless," said Victor Atalla, who is concerned about lacking transportation to a marketing internship he just accepted at a consulting company in Naperville. "This is really affecting our livelihoods."
The only bright spot for the Atallas may be that they're handy. Victor said he has been fixing cars since he was 14, and Ashley, who was unable to attend an interview for an accounting position because of the flood, has picked up skills from him.
"Our main focus is to get these cars running," Ashley said Saturday in the dining area at the church, as she and her husband used Q-tips to clean floodwater residue from the computers that operate their cars. "We only have liability insurance, so that won't help out at all. It won't even cover a rental."
The Atallas and most others at the Lisle shelter are displaced from The Towers at Four Lakes apartments, and they say they've been told it may be another three to four weeks before they're able to move back in.
For the most part, the apartments themselves were not flooded, but basements were. Residents said floodwaters shot the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, as well as electricity for the Towers, and building management has told them they can't live in their units until those systems are fixed.
Some are looking for ways out, and Red Cross case workers are helping.
Towers resident Joe Greenwood has applied to move to an apartment at the Green Trails complex in Lisle, an option he said was presented by building management.
Towers resident Denise Taylor said she is on a waiting list for a senior apartment in Chicago that will be about $300 cheaper than the $1,050 she was shelling out from her disability payments to live in her Lisle apartment.
Taylor, 58, and two years removed from a liver transplant, said she hopes the Red Cross can move her up on the waiting list so she can regain a permanent place to stay.
Since leaving her apartment by boat on the evening of April 18, she has returned only twice to pick up belongings. Taylor said she stayed one night with a relative, but has spent the majority of the time since flooding struck with other displaced residents at Benedictine University or Trinity Lutheran Church.
While Benedictine facilities had a cafeteria and more space, "this is more like home," said Darlene Jenkins, a Lisle Township employee staying at the shelter until she is convinced her condo at Four Lakes is free of mold.
Jenkins said her position with the township made her a resource for displaced residents wondering how to get help replacing a flood-wrecked car or paying for food and prescriptions.
"I kept asking why I was here," Jenkins said. "I was dropped in the crowd, and God said 'help,' and I did."
Boy Scout troops, other churches and the Lisle Park District are among the organizations assisting the flood victims with food, clothing, gas cards, prepaid debit cards or other free services.
Those using the shelter are showering at the Edward Health & Fitness Center in Woodridge and collaborating with volunteers to cook meals. They occupy a main sleeping area, a smaller room for shift workers or those used to sleeping at odd hours, and a few separate areas for families.
Their children, like 10-year-old Maddie Mojica are going to school as usual, and they're trying to carry on as many functions of everyday life as they can.
But in many ways, the flooding, and their resulting homelessness, has stalled all that. It's been particularly tough for Maddie's mom, Ruby Mojica, who is pregnant and expecting her second daughter June 6.
"It's been very stressful trying not to give birth to this baby yet," Mojica said Saturday as she and Maddie ate breakfast at the church. "I'm taking care of things, going to the doctor, trying to live a normal life, but yet we can't. I don't want to give birth and not have a home."
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