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Sandy survivors who can’t go home camp out in protest

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NEW JERSEY -- Sandy survivors are protesting in front of the New Jersey State House for four straight days, starting tonight.

Most are still out of their homes, since Sandy struck three years ago.

They plan to sleep in front of the War Memorial in sleeping bags, rain or shine. They want to see legislative action taken to help with survivors who have fallen behind on their mortgages, because they’re also shouldering the burden of rent and rebuilding costs.

“We’re hoping we can go home, but we’re in for foreclosure,” said Sue Kenneally of Keansburg, whose house is nearly done being rebuilt.

The Kenneallys have been paying over $2,000 in rent to house a family of five, while they wait for their house to be done.

“We’re fighting and we’re gonna keep on fighting,” Sue Kenneally added.

Another Sandy survivor camping out is Doug Quinn, whose house was demolished.

“They paid me 35 cents on the dollar, and we’ve been fighting them ever since,” said Quinn, talking about his insurer. While he says his calls to the state over a pending RREM grant have fallen on deaf ears.

“My grant is on hold on the moment,” he said, “They tell me it could take a week, it could a take a year.”

While Chuck Griffin says he gave a state-approved contractor $50,000 to raise his home. He says the contractor told him construction would begin over the summer.

Since then, he says nothing has happened and he read in the news that his builder, Jeffrey Colmyer of Colmyer and Sons Construction, was arrested for taking money from sandy survivors and allegedly not completing the work.

“I’m living with my mother-in-law, I’m thankful I have a place to live. But now I don’t know where I stand. I don’t know if I have a builder. Will I ever get that 50 back?” Griffin questioned.

Meanwhile, others say they are frustrated with a governor who promised them they’d get to go back home. The Governor and his cabinet plan to fan out across the state on Thursday, on the 3-year anniversary of Sandy, to highlight progress made.

“You know he promised three years ago that he was gonna not rest until everybody was back home, and there is still 6,000 people not home,” said Joe Karcz, who is still not home, “To me, that’s an incomplete job.”

A spokeswoman for New Jersey’s Department of Community Affairs, which works closely with Sandy families, responded in part by saying:

“…long term recovery is a process that takes many years. We want to assure families affected by the storm that our singular focus at DCA is to get them back into their homes, and that we will work in good faith with any homeowner who is committed to the rebuilding of their storm-damaged home. We are making real progress … “

Roughly one-quarter out of 8,000 impacted homeowners in the state’s largest grant program, known as RREM, have completed construction on their rebuilt homes. $659 million has been distributed to homeowners, while roughly $650 million is still in the pipeline.

The DCA says that rental assistance is available, and that a $17 million dollar foreclosure prevention program was launched this summer.

A spokeswoman also said that the DCA is working with homeowners to help them avoid fraudulent contractors.