BEAUFORT, N.C. -- When Hurricane Florence hit, Alex Carias took shelter in his pickup truck, riding out the storm with his terrier, Gus.
With their mobile home ruined, he planned on living inside the truck at least temporarily, but a social worker found them and ordered them into a shelter in nearby Morehead City.
On Saturday, he and dozens of others flooded into Ann Street United Methodist Church in Beaufort, filling out paperwork for rental assistance from FEMA, speaking to real estate agents about the chance of bunking in vacation homes. But Carias, who uses a wheelchair, came away from the housing fair shrugging, saying he'd added his name to a long list.
"I'm pretty much lost," said Carias, 60. "I'm going to have to sneak back into the trailer park and get my truck."
Carias is taking refuge along with about 40 others at the Red Cross shelter in Morehead City, which had planned to close at noon on Monday, shoving him and Gus closer to the homelessness that threatens hundreds in eastern North Carolina in Florence's aftermath.
After The N&O inquired on Sunday afternoon, the Red Cross reversed that decision and vowed to remain open as long as refuge is needed.
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"They walked that back," said Jerri Jameson, a spokeswoman for the agency.
At the peak of the need, more than 20,000 people were in shelters across the state, according to the Department of Public Safety. Many of those were evacuees who were able to return home once danger had passed. The organization has no set policy on how long emergency shelters can remain open, and works with local officials to close them as soon as possible. Late last week, more than 600 people were still living in 11 Red Cross shelters in the state's southeastern corner. But emergency officials said the numbers left homeless could be far higher.
"You may have 12 people staying in a house made for two and three people," said Stanley Kite, emergency services director in Craven County. "That's going to come unglued."
Recovery aid for the victims of Florence will come from four main sources: private insurance, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, nonprofits and the state.