Rent increases squeezing working class in Naples

Posted at 10:00 PM, May 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-23 06:22:35-04

NAPLES, Fla. -- It's a housing crisis in Collier County, where rent is soaring, squeezing lower to middle class families.  As season ends, so do many of the job opportunities available to those who want to make extra money.  Fox 4 spoke with someone who works two jobs, and that's barely enough to make ends meet.

Marilyn Castillo's day starts at 7:00 AM.  If she's lucky, the Golden Gate mother of three is home by 8:00 PM, after working one or both of her two jobs in the medical field.

She's moved 4 times in the past 3 years, losing a home to foreclosure in the process.  "We've had to downsize, because the rents have been high.  And because we're a big family, you don't get rent for less than $2,000 a month right now."

With her living space shrinking, food and rent prices ballooning, Castillo sought help at the Salvation Army.

Director of Social Services Ashley Jones says a lot of families are facing the same situation as Collier County grows.  She says rents are growing, especially in Collier County.  "So as you can imagine, with a household that's really struggling to make ends meet, with an increase of even $200 a month, that's $2,400 a year."

The Salvation Army offers what ever it can; food, or a stipend for utilities to hundreds of Collier County families to help lessen the blow of high rent payments.  "Because if a household becomes homeless, it's that much harder to get them into housing because then they have blemishes on their record such as legal issues and also eviction," says Jones.

The high cost of rent is not the only financial challenge facing Castillo.  Her youngest daughter was born with a congenital heart disease, and will need a third surgery this summer.  "Oh I get bills every day from the hospitals, because of the insurance, if they didn't cover this or cover that."

Jones herself wonders how Castillo and other clients like her can make ends meet.  "It is frustrating... but we have to continue on, day by day, leave it in God's hands, see what he does."

The Salvation Army is partnering with Habitat for Humanity on building more affordable housing in Collier County.  However, the challenge has been getting developers to jump on board with the plan.