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Hurricane Ian survivors share perspectives on staying in shelters

Posted at 10:08 PM, Oct 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-13 22:19:49-04

It’s a situation many are finding themselves in after Hurricane Ian- no home, no car, and nowhere to go.

Emergency shelters have sprung up all throughout Southwest Florida in response to help provide a roof and four walls for those in need. Hertz Arena is one of those shelters open right now, being run by the American Red Cross.

Inside Hertz Arena, you’ll find survivors of Hurricane Ian with all sorts of backgrounds. Like Roland Florez, a veteran who was previously at another shelter.

“There’s a lot of people stranded here that have absolutely nothing and no way," he says. “I’m hoping not to be here for another week. I guess the VA is trying to get things worked out. They’re putting some of us vets up in a hotel or something. I’m hoping to be able to do that, at least I’ll be someplace where it’s safe.”

It’s been two weeks since Hurricane Ian made landfall and survivors are still trying to figure out how they are going to recover.

But with each passing day — and every hour — tensions are getting higher.

“It’s like no one cares but they act like they do,” said Charles Terrell who is also staying at the arena.

"Me- I’m not homeless but at least half of these people that came here were homeless before they got here," he says. "And then you do have genuine people who lost their homes and this and that.”

People like Brittany Allen, a wife and mother to seven children.

"We sleep on an ice rink so to try to get off the ice would be amazing,” said Allen.

While resources have been provided — like hot meals, running water and electricity — she says conditions have progressively worsened over time.

"It is completely packed, there are still people sleeping on the floor," said Allen. "There are still people sleeping up in the stands. A lot more people are sick, a lot more people are coughing. The elderly- they actually took three people to the hospital while we were here due to dehydration.”

And at the same time efforts are being made to help those survivors find their footing post-shelter.

“We also have now our case workers that come in," says Tiffany Gonzalez, regional communications manager for South Florida Red Cross. "These case workers are assigned to the individuals and will help them find a transition plan so once they move on from the shelter, they know exactly what’s going to happen.”

In the meantime, these survivors will keep taking it day-by-day.

"But still we keep fighting, we keep plugging on," says Florez. "We’re going to get it done one way or another but that’s because who we are.”

The Red Cross says they will keep Hertz Arena as a shelter for as long as necessary. Right now, they say they have about 400 survivors currently sheltered with capacity for one thousand.