Pensacola woman, autistic son living in shed after Hurricane Sally

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PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — A Pensacola woman and her son, who has autism, are now living in a shed after Hurricane Sally left their home uninhabitable.

Stephanie Watts, who WKRG News 5 featured for helping out her neighbors in the Mayfair community, and her son Aedan left their house on Mississippi Circle to live in her friend’s storage shed about a week and a half ago.

Water damage from Hurricane Sally caused mold to grow throughout the home.

“I was waking up coughing blood every morning,” Watts said. “My son was coughing.”

Watts and Aedan are now “living out of boxes” packed inside a storage pod in Watts’ front yard. Watts said they only go back to the home to shower and clean up what they can without being exposed to growing mold.

Watts said Thursday morning she’s grateful for her friend for letting her and Aedan stay in the shed, which has air conditioning and a bed.

But, it’s not home.

She received an SBA loan and some FEMA assistance to repair her home, but it does not cover moving expenses or a place to stay while the home is repaired. FEMA denied Watts rental assistance.

“It’s hard not knowing if you’re going to be able to go back to your home or if it’s going to be repaired,” Watts said. “I feel defeated. It’s very crushing to know you need help.” 

A GoFundMe page has been started to help Aedan and Watts get back on their feet. Watts said when she saw it, it was tough to see. Her father taught her to “not take handouts,” she said, but she’ll do whatever it takes to make sure Aedan is comfortable.

“Aedan has days where he just feels defeated like I do,” Watts said. “He’s asking me, ‘Mom, what are we going to do?’ I said, ‘Buddy, I don’t know, but it’s going to be OK. It’s going to work out somehow, someway. You just got to have faith.”

After talking with Aedan, you’d believe he had faith in his mother.

“I tell my mom she’s the best mom in the world because she helps a lot of people,” he said with a smile. “She’s a very nice person.”

When asked how she remains optimistic despite the circumstances, Watts said it comes naturally.

“Faith is what keeps me optimistic,” she said. “Faith that I know everything is going to be OK.”

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