Have you forgotten Hurricane Charley?
About 1,500 Punta Gorda residents displaced by Hurricane Charley are still living in FEMA trailers. The emergency period ends Feb. 13, meaning residents are supposed to be out by then.
The storm pushed hundreds of Floridians into homelessness, and more than a year later, many still don’t have a place of their own. Instead they live a nomadic life, going from place to place — motels, automobiles, porches, garages or doubled up with friends and relatives.
The hurricane destroyed nearly 11,000 homes and damaged another 30,000, many of them older homes that formed the bedrock of the rental market. Rents are going up.
“I don’t care how hard you work right now,” said Ron Thomas, head of Habitat for Humanity. “We don’t have adequate housing for people who are making modest amounts of money. That’s the bottom line.
Unlike the chronic homeless, who live on the streets, in shelters or in homeless camps, the invisible homeless live behind closed doors and aren’t as noticeable.
They’re the “sofa surfers,” said Tom Pierce, executive director of Florida’s Office on Homelessness, pushed over the brink into homelessness by some crisis. For many it was Charley.
The number of homeless people in Florida surged after last year’s hurricanes, and 45 percent of them said it was their first time without their own place to stay, according to the 2005 Annual Report on Homeless Conditions in Florida. Read the report here.
Read the Sarasota Herald-Tribune story here.