Kind Stranger Gifts Trailer to Family Living in Tents After Hurricane Ida Destroyed Their Home

TIMEDecember 15, 2021

A Louisiana family that had been sleeping in tents after Hurricane Ida ripped through their house has been gifted a trailer by a kind benefactor. With renewed access to hot showers and warm beds, the grateful family members are now able to focus their attention on rebuilding their home.

The Nazios of Paradis, Louisiana, evacuated to Texas on Aug. 28 ahead of the storm. Two days later, when the eldest son of Hypolite Nazio Jr., 47, went to check on their house and take photos, they found the place to be unlivable.

“After the heartbreak of seeing the house that my grandfather and uncle built with extensive damage, I knew we had to make a plan,” Nazio told The Epoch Times. “I sat my family down in the hotel we were staying in and made a plan. … I told them, ‘Even though the house is damaged, we’re still going to live there. We will put up tents in the yard and live like that as long as we can.'”

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Hypolite Nazio and his family share a meal beside the trailer. (Courtesy of Hypolite Nazio)

The house, in which Nazio was raised, had shifted on its foundation, had extensive roof damage, and had water leaks under the house. People lent the family tents, and they set up a “tent city” in their yard. With an unanswered request to the state for temporary housing, they camped outside for two months—until Nazio did interviews with multiple media outlets in early November.

One Twitter post by a local New Orleans reporter that displayed pictures of the Nazios’ makeshift tent caught the attention of 39-year-old Matt Rookard, chief executive of Terrebonne Economic Development Authority (TEDA) and its sister nonprofit. He felt compelled to reach out to the family.

Rookard, who lives in New Orleans, said he knew nothing of the family’s struggle until he read the reporter’s post on Twitter, which also had a reminder that many were still living in unsuitable conditions two months after Hurricane Ida.

“That tweet mentioned there were three kids in the family as well,” he said. “As a father of three myself, I decided to just reach out. … I had a trailer available that would be big enough for his family, and I simply couldn’t have slept that weekend had I gone home on Friday night without doing everything in my power.”

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Hypolite Nazio and his family were living in tents after their home was destroyed by Hurricane Ida. (Courtesy of Hypolite Nazio)

After receiving Nazio’s contact information from the reporter, he immediately called and offered the family a trailer.

“I asked if I could call him back so I could talk to my wife,” Nazio said about his call with Rookard. “She asked how long we would be able to use it. I told her, ‘I think he wants to give it to us.’ At that point, I think we were both in shock: Nowadays you just don’t see that kind of generosity very often.”

According to Nazio, Rookard called him at about 5.30 p.m., and the trailer was parked in their driveway just three hours later. The family’s property was on Rookard’s commute route.

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(Courtesy of Hypolite Nazio)

For Nazio, the gift was a “blessing.”

“I would go as far as saying it’s a miracle,” he said. “Matt may have brought us the trailer; however, I believe God put it on his heart to help us, and he did. … That first night under a roof was great.”

The family had used a Coleman stove to cook while they were living in tents, but the wind often blew the burner out. Nazio built a fire pit and covered their tents with a tarpaulin, but strong winds and rain still presented a constant challenge to cooking.

However, after receiving the trailer from Rookard, Nazio, an independent contractor with DoorDash; his wife, Brandy, 42, an associate at Walmart; and their three kids—Jaden-Xavier, 15, Samson-Davis, 14, and Chasity-Alexis, 10—were excited to once again sleep in warmth and swap daily bathing with a cup and boiled water for piping hot showers.

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(Courtesy of Hypolite Nazio)

TEDA’s Bayou Business Community Housing Initiative, which is supported by a number of major funders, is helping many of the hardest-hit families recover from the storm by donating trailers. Rookard believes that the Nazios were more than deserving of a trailer.

“They are just self-reliant, down-to-earth folks,” he said. “They don’t need much, but this has been a little more than they can handle as a family. Getting them secure space so they can begin rebuilding is critical.”

Rookard—who praised the Louisiana locals for their resilience—fears that the ongoing plight of hurricane victims is fading into obscurity. Nazio echoed the same sentiment.

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This trailer was gifted to the Nazio family by Matt Rookard. (Courtesy of Hypolite Nazio)

“People are still struggling, living in tents, under tarps, and even in damaged houses,” Nazio said. “People are still fighting with insurance and struggling with the government for help.”

Thanks to an act of unprecedented kindness, Nazio and his son are now working on tearing down the roof of their damaged house and will save some of the ex-railroad cypress for the rebuilding of their home.

“My grandfather had the house brought here, and he built the back part. The front part is either 100 years old or older,” Nazio said. “My wife and I figured out that four generations have lived in the house since my grandfather.

“For me, it’s more than four walls or a house: It’s a lifetime of memories.”

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Louise Bevan
Louise Bevan is a writer, born and raised in London, England. She covers inspiring news and human interest stories.