Months After Memorial Day Tornadoes, Dozens Wait For Emergency Replacement Furniture

Oct 18, 2019

Nearly six months after the Memorial Day tornadoes, many residents in the hardest-hit communities continue to recover. More than 4,000 Montgomery County properties suffered damage in the storm and many survivors remain in temporary housing.

Of the hundreds of tornado-affected people who signed up for emergency replacement furniture from the nonprofit St. Vincent de Paul, more than 150 are still waiting for furniture assistance.

And, says Steve Bowen, that number is an undercount.

Bowen is with the faith-based organization Living City Project, just one of the many groups around the Dayton area, including St. Vincent's and Miami Valley Community Action Partnership, that continue to help people displaced from storm-damaged homes and apartments get back on their feet.

Bowen says many survivors who lost everything are living in limbo.

“If they have insurance," Bowen says, "they put them in an apartment for that year before they can get back into their home. People's homes are trashed. It's going to take over a year to build them back up.”

Bowen's group is part of a network of Miami Valley groups also collecting and distributing basic household goods, such as dishes, bedding, towels and cleaning supplies, to survivors.

He says many of the families he's met have bounced from hotels, to the homes of relatives and friends. Many have few possessions left from before the tornadoes hit. 

"One couple with three kids were sleeping on the floor until we arrived. So, mattresses are really important," he says. "The need is really huge. The people who have been displaced who are in apartments and trying to find homes, the problem is trying to find affordable housing in Dayton, and there are people who've moved all the way to Westchester and Germantown who used to live in Trotwood. And they don't live there anymore."

Volunteers are pushing to reach everyone on furniture waiting lists before winter sets in. Bowen says there's an especially great need for queen-sized, and single bed frames.

There's also a need for more volunteers to help pack up and deliver furniture. 

Donovan Demus loads donated household necessities into his car. His family lost their home in the Memorial Day tornado disaster.
Credit Jess Mador / WYSO

Donovan Demus, 20, met Bowen while picking up furniture and household supplies in Dayton.

He says he and his mother and little sister crashed with a cousin after losing almost everything when the tornado hit their second-floor Trotwood apartment.

"The whole roof came off, our window shattered through the living room and it hit my mom's car," he says. "Her car got destroyed."

The family has since relocated to permanent housing and replaced his mother's totaled car. Moving into a new home before recently heading to school at Hocking College, Demus says, was a relief.

"Not being able to sleep in my bed, that was bad. It was awful."

Montgomery County officials say it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how many Dayton residents are still couch surfing with friends and family.

Meanwhile, county appraisers are in the field working house-to-house to update the tally of tornado-damaged properties.

A spokesman for the Auditor’s Office says an updated count is expected later this year.

Learn more about volunteering with furniture delivery here, or by calling (937) 476-7521.