An animal sanctuary, a car, a trailer parked near a brothel — all are places where Jennifer Porter, her two parents and their 10 pets have slept since they lost their homes in the Camp Fire last November.
“We aren’t willing to split up, because we are all we have,” said Jennifer Porter, 35, a former emergency department nurse at Butte County’s Feather River Hospital, which was also partially scorched during the firestorm.
That’s according to Butte County Director of Employment and Social Services Shelby Boston, who was citing recent data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Boston said there are many ways families have put roofs over their head.
“They [may be] sleeping on a relative’s couch or in a spare bedroom,” said Boston. “I’ve heard stories of people staying in garages that have been converted. Lots of people who I know personally, from Paradise and the ridge … purchased an RV, or were loaned or were donated an RV, and are camping on folks property.”
Dozens of other families are still in hotels, or are living in tents, said Boston, and they’ve spread out to almost every state in the country.
But many like the Porters are trying to stay as close as possible to Butte County, where they once lived and worked.
Jennifer Porter bought a used RV and is now living in a trailer park in Los Molinos, a half hour north of Chico, right on the Sacramento River. Dozens of other Camp Fire evacuees and clean-up workers have also been coming and going from the park.
Jennifer Porter (left), and her mother, Linda Porter (middle), eating dinner outside Linda’s RV in Los Molinos, California. The family has been moving from place to place since the Camp Fire burned up their Paradise homes in November 2018.Pauline Bartolone / Capital Public Radio
They keep each other laughing. They grill food at night, and browse on their phones for houses to purchase in Tehama County.
The family’s gotten by on savings and meager insurance payouts, but they don’t have enough to rebuild. Jennifer Porter is planning to take out a government loan to buy a place for a handful of her adult family members to live in together.
The Porter family became homeless when the Camp Fire burned their homes in Paradise last November. They’re now temporarily living in an RV park in Los Molinos, California.Pauline Bartolone / Capital Public Radio