Irma's 'forgotten' evacuees struggle to find housing – Florida Politics (blog)
It’s been one week since Margherita Lopez has taken a shower. She’s been shuffled to three different shelters since evacuating her home in Key West last week as Hurricane Irma approached. She’s slept on a gymnasium floor without a cot, has struggled to find food and says she feels like emergency management officials have forgotten her.
“It’s been a nightmare … there should have been a better plan,” said Lopez, a 43-year-old woman who fled an abusive relationship and entered a women’s shelter and later a communal facility in Key West run by the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition.
Lopez isn’t alone in her frustration. Across Florida, local, state and federal emergency officials are struggling to assist the flood of evacuees, many of whom are seeking temporary or permanent shelter from a storm that cast a wide swath across the state. Even Keys residents who have a home to return to have been left without power, water and sewage service.
The state says about 7,500 people were in nearly 100 shelters as of Friday, and that the Red Cross planned to open four shelters in the Keys once the area was properly surveyed.
Wearing a donated Mickey Mouse T-shirt, Lopez sat in a room Thursday on Florida International University’s campus that had air conditioning but smelled like a pet store. She shared the space with about 30 fellow evacuees from the same organization, their room lined with green cots with Red Cross blankets. Three shopping carts full of donated water, canned food and clothes sat in the entryway.
Everyone sleeping there had been housed together because they had been deemed to have “special needs.” Lopez is bipolar and has panic attacks.
Michael Todd, 63, is part of the same group but is not considered special needs. He spent Thursday night with