A (Very Small) Taste of Homelessness
Hurricane Irma left many families in Brevard County with damaged homes and no power for days, allowing a very small taste of what homeless families have to deal with every day of their lives. Homeless families, when they are fortunate enough to have the money to do so, stay in motels to escape the elements much like those of us who had to evacuate. Sometimes these families “couch surf” moving from one friend or family members home to another, much like many of us had to do during and after the storm. Sometimes these families live in their cars or in tents dealing with the unbearable heat and incessant mosquitos like many of us are dealing with in the wake of Irma. Many families do all of these things at various times as they struggle to find a more permanent and bearable solution.
The (Smith) family consists or a mother, father and four children living in a low budget motel in Brevard County where they have been staying for several months. The father works hard every day to provide but the mother is disabled. After they pay the hotel $1200/month they struggle to save any money at all much less the $3000 they would need to get into a house (first, last, deposit). Even in light of Hurricane Irma the Smith family stayed positive, the mother saying: “We get so caught up in thinking that the more you have the better off you are but something like this reminds us that we are really all the same. In a tragedy like this you realize what is really important.”
The (Jones) family was living in a car with their two toddler children until they recently got a home with a local program called Community of Hope. Mrs. Jones said, “If we were still in the car in the hurricane it would have been Hell! It would have been life or death. We would have been terrified.” While many of homeless individuals and families may have been able to take advantage of shelters during the storm, others were left stranded fending for themselves as they had no way to get to a shelter. As Mark Broms, director of the Brevard Homeless Coalition, points out Space Coast Area Transit stopped running the Friday before the storm but the shelters were not even open until Saturday.
Unfortunately, the number of families facing homelessness is only going up as the rental market is becoming increasingly expensive. Shawna Peare, with Community of Hope states that “the average rental price in the area is now about $1,200 per month and that is a stretch for most families. It makes getting into a permanent home difficult for most Brevard residents and all-but-impossible for low income families. Landlords are realizing they can make more money in this market and are not renewing leases for these struggling families, forcing them into hotels or worse.”
As we all resume our normal lives, enjoying a cold soda, a hot meal, cool air conditioning, and a hot shower. Take some time and reflect on how bitter your very small taste of homelessness may have tasted and try to help those for whom that condition last longer than a week. Drew Warren, executive director of Community of Hope states, “There are dozens of non-profit agencies in the area who help the homeless; find one and volunteer your time, donate food or supplies, or provide financial support. This is the Space Coast; we put man of the moon, surely we can solve the problem of homelessness.”