The 27-year-old had spent days anxiously watching long lines of cars evacuating from Baton Rouge, bound for safer locations out of state as Hurricane Ida approached. He hoped that he, his wife, mother-in law, roommate, and four pets would join them. However, they did not have enough money to pay for gas or a hotel room.
Owens applied for a payday loan because he was desperate. He was told that he didn’t have enough credit and denied the loan.
By Sunday, it was clear they would be riding out the storm at home in his family's duplex apartment.
He said, "Our bank account has been empty. We can't afford to leave."
Owens stated that the majority of low-income residents in his neighborhood are in the exact same situation. They want to move to protect their families but cannot choose to stay.
Owens reported that his family and neighbors had lost their power by Sunday night, at 9 p.m. He said that the sky was turning green as transformers were exploding all around them.
A number of trees had fallen on the properties of neighbors, but it was too dark for them to see the extent of the damage. Owens stated that they tried to use a flashlight to inspect the street but were afraid of putting their safety at risk.
He said, as huge gusts rattled his windows.
Owens stated that there were times when the roof of Owens' duplex might have come off. Owens said that his wife had packed a bag with essentials and clothes just in case.
He said, "We'll shelter inside the car if the house is lost." His wife shares his Toyota Avalon with the family, which is "not nearly large enough" to house four people, three dogs, and a cat.
Owens claimed that he had been hurriedly placing towels underneath leaking windows in his duplex, and also charging electronic devices. He tried to visit Dollar General and Dollar Tree for food, but they were closed. His family has lights stuck to the walls. They had planned to hide in the kitchen or laundry room when the storm struck -- areas without windows.
He said, "There is a general fear of not knowing what the consequences of this will be." That's what is most worrying. What are we going do if things get really bad? We will still be alive. Are we going to be buried under a tree?
Owens stated that his mother-in law is disabled. Both of his roommates work in Apple iOS tech support. His wife schedules blood donations. They all rely on the internet for work, and if it goes down, they won’t be able bring in any money.
He said that "we might be without work, but rent, power and water will still need to be paid." "We are concerned about losing our utilities, or even our house - if it's still standing - because we don't have enough money to pay any other bills."
He stated that it was difficult to feel vulnerable and like his family is being left behind.
He said, "The fact we aren't middle-class or above just keeps coming back at us over and again in so many different directions, and ways -- a simple payday advance being one of them." It's almost as if we have to pay for being poor even though we are trying to avoid it.