FORT MYERS, Fla. — UPDATE: In less than 24 hours after we told you about a homeless mother and her son, they had a comfortable place to sleep Saturday night.
Ramona Miller, a local homeless advocate says she had to take action after seeing their story. Miller was able to find Suzette and her son a motel for the night. Suzette says having a safe place to sleep is a lifted burden.
The financial fallout from the pandemic is pushing some of the most vulnerable Southwest Floridians into homelessness. One of those people is a mother named Suzette Sanborn.
She says until recently, she lived like many other Southwest Floridians.
"I had a house a normal stable place, clothes, food - everything I needed," she says.
She and her son - who she says has autism and social anxiety disorder - now live in the woods of Fort Myers.
"This is all new to me," she says. Suzette says they've been living this way for 3 months. She said she had been relying on help from the United Way and CCMI. They were living in a local motel, she says, but were kicked out.
Now she and her son sleep in a makeshift tent - a tarp strewn between low lying trees. Suzette says her previously "normal life" began to unravel when her marriage was infected by addiction.
"My husband of thirty years got into drugs really bad," she says.
"He was taking all of our money." "He robbed my bank account and took my social security money," she adds. "I lost everything."
Though addiction often goes hand in hand with homelessness, Suzette that is not the case with her own situation.
"I don’t do drugs, I don’t drink alcohol," she says.
"I don’t even smoke cigarettes."
She's concerned about the threat of the novel coronavirus because she has lupus and other chronic medical conditions that make her more vulnerable to the potentially deadly effects of the virus.
"I’m a sick, disabled person that needs help," she says.
She says it's been a challenge to find help.
"I’ve been trying to contact everybody I possibly can in Lee county government," she says.
"Every resource I could think of - I have reached out to them."
"They are supposed to be helping all homeless people find some type of shelter to be quarantined to stop the spread of COVID." Suzette says the virus isn't the only threat facing her and her son.
"We're scared all the time," she says. "I’ve been approached by a drug addict."
"I was trying to take a nap in my tent, and he said 'I’m not the cops I’m a junkie.'"
"Literally admitted he was a Junkie."
"It scared the living daylights out of me," she says.
"That is what we are faced with every day. "
"Every night, we sleep with a pocket knife beside us and a pair of scissors," says Suzette.
"It’s all we have to defend ourselves."
"I’m already at my wits end and don’t know what to do anymore," says Suzette.
"Honestly, physically, I don't know if I can survive much longer like this."