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Hearts of L.A. / How the Quake Rocked Our Spirits and Changed Our Lives : TAKING CHARGE : 'I kept thinking, "I'm going to wake up." '

January 30, 1994|Janice Kane | Kane, 39, a private investigator, lived in mobile home, space No. 31, Tahitian Mobile Home Park, Sylmar, where dozens of mobile homes went up in flames after the earthquake. and

We had a pretty nice place. There were trees. Most of the houses were nice. Now it's just smoke and nothing. The water main to the park is turned off and there's no electricity or gas. Sixty to 70 homes are burned out. Every single house--238 families--is off its jacks. We have National Guard troops out front because there were looters here within hours.

I went to the (Federal Emergency Management Agency) disaster center in Sun Valley. If I owned a business and FEMA was my manager, I'd fire him. They've managed to create a disaster all on their own.

I went there on Friday and got an appointment for Sunday. On Sunday, I was there from 1 in the afternoon until 9:30 at night.

First, you have to get the FEMA forms filled out. Then they tell you what you are eligible for. Then they give you your (Small Business Administration) package. Then they tell you to fill it out and bring it back. That took until 4 o'clock.

We got to another table at 4 o'clock, and they did not call us until 8:30. They had six people from the city Housing Authority there, four of whom were sitting on their butts doing nothing. They had two men doing "eligibility." They were handing out these forms and saying, "We'll investigate it later. Don't lie."

I got a (housing) voucher, but it's not a take-it-to-the-bank voucher. What they give you is this form. They give it out saying, "No questions asked. We'll verify it later."

They give you this form you have to fill out, and the potential new landlord has to fill it out. Among other things, your landlord must give up a copy of his grant deed. He has to provide them with his Social Security number and what his total rent is supposed to be. They will report the whole thing to the IRS and then the potential landlord has to submit his property to inspection by the city Housing Authority.

There is no cash given or any other kind of assistance for first and last month's rent. As a single person, the maximum they would give me is $536 if the landlord paid the water and $570 if I paid the water, of which my portion was $330. Except, here's the catch: I couldn't rent anything but a single. My best friend was also burned out, but we couldn't go in together and rent a house.

Bureaucracy is rough to deal with, but so is the realization that I'm not as brave as I thought I was. That shook me a lot. I don't know how long it'll be before I feel happy and safe in my home again.

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