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Darryl Slennes, a Northland flood survivor, posing lakeside on rocks

Northland flood survivor story: Darryl Slennes

Added on Monday, June 24, 2013

Duluth resident Darryl Slennes awoke to a peculiar “swishing” sound the night of June 19, 2012. He looked outside his ground-level apartment and saw pouring rain. Normally, he gauged a storm’s severity by the amount of water running down his sidewalk. This time, there was no sidewalk.

“Water was covering everything all the way to the railroad,” he said. “I knew it was severe, so I starting waking other people up and I shut the power off to the building.”

Darryl returned to his apartment and scrambled to move irreplaceable items high off the ground. Soon, the water was knee-deep and almost everything he owned was destroyed.

Darryl spent the next few weeks living with friends while his apartment was being “repaired.” Afterward, he tried living at the apartment again but it was ultimately uninhabitable. Darryl’s landlord, he said, didn’t come close to repairing the place properly.

Finding a new home wasn’t going to be easy. Darryl lives off disability income of about $800 per month and has a Section 8 voucher for housing. He suffers from severe arthritis and a degenerative bone disorder, ailments that forced him to stop working several years ago after a lifetime of employment at oil refineries, driving cab and building homes.

Darryl became homeless that fall, bouncing from one friend’s home to the next. At times he literally lived – as he jokingly described it – in a van down by the river, referring to a popular “Saturday Night Live” skit.

He finally caught a break in December, when his friend took a four-month vacation and asked him to housesit. Darryl used the time to find a new apartment and get his life on track.

Salvation Army case worker Elise Strader poses for the cameraWith help from The Salvation Army, that’s exactly what happened. Last spring, Darryl met with Duluth Salvation Army caseworker Elise Strader (pictured). She keeps a running list of affordable housing vacancies and found him a place. She helped Darryl pay two big deposits – $1,200 for rent and $83 for electricity – and met with his landlord in person, assuring him that Darryl could pay his rent.

Elise also gave Darryl a $300 Kmart voucher to buy new clothes.

“I never knew what The Salvation Army did to help people because I never had to ask until now,” Darryl said. “I knew they did things to help the community, but nothing like this. They helped me immensely and I’m very grateful.”