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Many Southwest Floridians continue to struggle despite working

Posted at 8:07 AM, Feb 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-16 08:07:39-05

CAPE CORAL, Fla.  — Hamilton and Brianna have four children.

But on the day we caught up with them, the kids were all with other loved ones.

Hamilton and Brianna said they had no idea where they were going.

They were being evicted from their rental home.

"We weren't able to keep up with the bills," said Hamilton.

"Since coronavirus started, everything has been under siege," said Brianna.

"Like, our whole life has ended basically," she added.

"I lost my grandmother to Covid," said Hamilton.

"It's not an excuse," he added.

"It just is what it is."

The couple put up yard signs advertising an "eviction sale" as a way to make a few bucks off their belongings.

"What we have left here - that you can see - is our personal things that we don't even want to get rid of," said Britanny gesturing toward their stuff on the lawn and driveway.
"But we have no other way," she added.

They're not alone.

FGCU Social Work professor Tom Felke says many of the Southwest Floridians who are struggling and perhaps even receiving benefits like SNAP are working more jobs than ever.

"We actually have a high percentage of individuals in Southwest Florida who fall into that designation that we would call 'working poor,'" said Felke.

"These are households that have at least one - if not two or more - working individuals in the household," he said.

"They may actually be working multiple jobs."

As Brianna and Hamilton described their situation, it sounded as it could fit into that category Felke described.

"We had our own little painting business," she said - until business dried up because of the pandemic.

"We were doing side jobs," said Hamilton.

Then they said they had a medical setback that kept Hamilton from being able to paint for a living.

"I had a bad accident last year and broke five pelvic bones," he said.

Felke said those scenarios are becoming more common during the pandemic.

He said many families that were barely keeping their heads above water before the pandemic are starting to slip below the surface more often.

"Those are the individuals who have seen the greatest impact financially and economically from the Covid 19 pandemic," said Felke.

For Brianna and Hamilton, it's time to figure out what's next.

They said they want to reunite their kids under one roof.

But first, they had to finish with their "eviction sale."

"We're going to leave behind whatever doesn't sell," said Hamilton.

"We're going try to give it away," he added.

"Maybe somebody else can get something out of it (that) we couldn't."

In the meantime, they told us, they're hoping for help from a higher power when they, as Hamilton puts, "pray to God to help us out."

Their short-term plan after the eviction was to live out of their vehicle.

"God bless us all," he said.