From the architecture, you’d never know that, three months ago, the Three Rivers Inn & Suites was hit by a category four hurricane, until you step inside. Tile floors are missing, a foot of drywall from the floor up is gone, and all of the rooms on the first floor are ripped to shreds. The traces of devastation from the water can still be felt.
Since Hurricane Harvey, many victims who “lost everything” are calling hotel rooms their new homes. The massive storm left many people displaced.
Chandler Matthews, a college student at Lamar University, has worked at the Three Rivers Inn & Suites for about a year. During the hurricane, he was at the hotel.
“The water came in the AC room, then the side doors…by the evening time, about 12:00-1:00, water got into the first-floor rooms,” Matthews said.
Matthews and his other three coworkers were stuck at the hotel for three days. Sharing a bed with his coworkers, they opened doors to families to use the hotel. Those families became refugees from the storm, and some of them still are.
The hotel was operating up to full capacity. Matthews described families with more than four people cramming into a single bed, and people begging to stay at the hotel during the storm.
“We ate out of the vending machines for two days. We ate ’til everything was gone,” said Matthews.
During the hurricane, Matthews was isolated from his family. His parents were stuck at their home for seven to eight hours. He had to use a Facebook status as a tool to have them rescued. Currently, Matthews and his parents are living with his sister and her husband.
Now, he describes the hotel as the new home for many. He even had to sign a document for a guest stating the hotel is their permanent living situation. The hotel capacity had overwhelming increased since the hurricane.
People like Marsha Bias and her family showed strength in the toughest moments in life.
Marsha has been living in the hotel with her husband, daughter, and granddaughter since Hurricane Harvey began. She works in the professional field of social work in the foster care system, and her husband works at the oil refinery. She is from nearby Beaumont, Texas but had to come to Port Arthur because there was no hotel availability in Beaumont.
During the Hurricane, Marsha’s family lost everything, but she did save one of her cars.
After Marsha was denied Red Cross, she only received $1,300 from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), even though she had full insurance with her cars.
Marsha received $1,500 plus gift cards from her job, which is more than FEMA provided.
“As far as FEMA goes, they haven’t done anything. So, basically, you lose everything, and they give $1,300 and that not going to do nothing but help you live in hotel room temporary,” she said.
According to FEMA’s Disaster Relief monthly report for September, the cost of Hurricane Harvey recovery is $3.11 billion.
Marsha and her family are paying out of pocket for the hotel daily, with money getting short as time progresses.
“I had pictures of my kids that got wet, and my son is deceased. How do you replace those?” she said. “It’s devastating and disgusting.”
Marsha cooked her family Thanksgiving meal at their temporary home, the Three Rivers Inn & Suites.
“By the grace of God, we got to stick together. Got to stay strong. I think about we are blessed. Even after all this, I think that we are blessed… Keep going strong,” said Marsha’s husband Kenneth Marshall.
Despite losing everything, Marsha Bias and her family keep a more positive outlook than most do about life.