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Some communities not seeking help after Hurricane Ian over deportation fears

Posted at 10:24 PM, Oct 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-05 22:24:11-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — A week after Hurricane Ian hit the Ft. Myers area and some community advocates tell FOX4 that some families are not seeking help after Hurricane Ian out of fear that their families may face deportation.

For the past week Jessica Wood has been trying to help families in more diverse, lower income areas around Ft. Myers, and she’s hearing concerns as volunteers have started to enter their communities.

“There are people who are hiding when we come and knock on their doors, I literally have to assure them I'm not ICE, I'm here to give you ice,” said Wood.

Wood who runs a local non-profit around the area has set up pop up pantries, and donations drives for people most in need.

“Right now the biggest needs are diapers, wipes, formula, camping showers, they are like $20 little camping showers because they don't have running water and there's a huge sanitation problem even just to wash their hands the right way,” Wood added.

For Melissa Harper she is facing being forced out of her home from a landlord as rent is due, “He demanded his rent, or he was kicking us out by Friday, and rents been paid here for 11 years.”

Harper said she paid $200 for rent before Hurricane Ian, but has yet to pay the rest. “The only thing I can tell you is I have a tent, I have a tent, we have nowhere else to go.”

Wood said there are many minority families also facing eviction, “their fear surpasses their need, there's no other way to explain that, they're afraid that they're never going to see their children again if they they get on that bus and go to the shelters.”

On Wednesday, Wood was watching as a Red Cross mobile unit entered into the area, it was the first one she had seen the entire week.

“When the Red Cross came, I told them to go and coordinate with the other people who are already giving food here and assist them because they're late,” she added.

For Wood, people are dropping off loads of donated clothes — but it has becoming overwhelming as there are not enough volunteers to sort through them.

Wood said what people need are clean undergarments like underwear, in all sizes, for children, women and men.

Another help is eating utensils, paper plates and cups.

Wood is also asking for air mattresses, “we have kids sleeping on the floors,” she added, “The hand pump kind, so can pump them because there's no electricity to blow them up.”