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77-year-old Lake Charles woman found living in her vehicle

Updated: Mar. 18, 2021 at 9:37 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - 77-year-old Leeanna Joseph lived in the Villas of Lake Charles. Now, those buildings are boarded up. Construction crews have checklists posted on every door in the complex, marking off work still left to be done nearly 7 months after the hurricanes. Those storms left Joseph without a home.

Once the elderly woman realized how severe her situation was, she ended up having to buy a vehicle, just so she could have a place to sleep. She then parked that car in a library parking lot. This is where she would use the restroom and shower most days.

“I had to wake up, at maybe like 4 o’clock, when it’s dark, nobody could see,” says Leeanna Joseph. “I would do my wash up then I would go over my body with alcohol.”

Sometimes driving several miles just to use the bathroom, the chronically ill woman found her health deteriorating even more.

“The only problem I had was finding a bathroom,” says Joseph. “I now know CVS stays open 24 hours. Kroger is open at 6 o’clock.”

“Actually her health declined because of staying in her car,” says Rebecca Johnson. “She wasn’t able to take her medicine. She wasn’t able to eat. She wasn’t able to drink like she should. It could have not ended well.”

Rebecca Johnson has housed several elderly women after the storm. The community matriarch calls it her civic duty and believes the local and federal government have failed these victims.

“When you look at the magnitude of the damage that is still going on, the time frame, and then you see elderly people, sick people, small children out 7 months after a storm - it’s just, you have to do something,” says Johnson.

“I wish that FEMA and the officials, political officials - mayor, Governor, and all those people like housing - would take consideration and not tell me the rules,” says Joseph. “The rules have nothing to do with the circumstances that people have gone through.”

Just last week, Mayor Nic Hunter wrote yet another letter to FEMA personnel addressing the community’s concerns. FEMA has now made a decision to move toward group sites for housing, something Lake Charles officials say they wish happened immediately after the storm.

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