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Yurts used as temporary housing in Pine Island communities

Organizations partner to offer alternative temporary options to residents
Posted at 9:04 AM, Nov 08, 2022

ST. JAMES CITY, Fla. — Hundreds of people across Southwest Florida are still recovering after Hurricane Ian. For many, their homes are unlivable, but leaving their property is not something they want to do.

Sharon Kershaw is one of them. Her home of more than 15 years in St. James City was flooded during Hurricane Ian.

She was there, alone, riding out the storm as the water was rising and the ceiling started caving in, but, six weeks later she is still there.

The moldy drywall and water lines are a daily reminder of what she went through. Ian hit SWFL a week after her husband, Bruce, died suddenly. She's been mourning his loss while trying to figure out how to navigate the cleanup.

For Sharon, leaving just isn't an option she'll consider, but, staying in her home isn't safe. It's the case for so many seniors living on Pine Island.

The recovery process has barely started. A flooded car sits in the garage, mud is still caked on the tile floor under the dining room table. Family photos, soaked during the hurricane are piled up on the back porch and drying out at Sharon's home. Not to mention the smell of mildew and mold in the house is pungent and concerning.

It's people like Sharon that local business owner Jody Franke is trying to help. She's the founder of Pine Island Wellness at Home and has partnered with Operation Tiny Home to raise money and get residents into temporary housing on their own property.

She was able to put a yurt on Sharon's front yard, with a twin bed, and air conditioning inside. It's a step in the right direction, she says, to have people out of the dangerous conditions in their destroyed homes, but she wants to take it a step further.

Franke is working to raise money for tiny homes that can be placed on people's land. Operation Tiny Home is able to make them at more affordable prices than they traditionally cost and Franke says this would be a great way for people who lost everything to have a safe space to live in while they recover.