Disaster refugees expected in Central Florida, officials warn

ORLANDO, Fla. — It was two days ago when the first signs of another housing crisis began to form in the wake of Hurricane Ian.


That’s when flooding at the Cypress Landing apartment complex displaced hundreds of families who are now looking for  a new place to stay.

READ: Hundreds of Orange County families being evicted after Hurricane Ian damages complex

County and community leaders say the area is short thousands of affordable housing units, and now, resources are being moved in to help people facing homelessness.

Some officials are now calling for communities of temporary homes to help people get back on their feet.

Cypress Landing is home to 200 families, and it’s estimated there are hundreds more in a similar situation across the Orlando area.

Temporary housing is just one of the ideas being considered as leaders promise everyone who needs help will get it.

“There are processes in place for individual assistance,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said Thursday. “All of those families will be assisted in that process.”

However, the details are still murky. With Hurricane Ian wrecking communities up and down Central Florida, nonprofits say their ability to respond is being tested.

“We have very quickly mobilized, and the county and the city have come together to do that,” Capt. Ken Chapman with the Salvation Army said. “Osceola is doing a lot, but no sir, we were not prepared.”

Chapman’s team was among the first to respond to Cypress Landing. He estimates there are six or seven hundred families newly displaced from their homes thanks to the storm, bringing the total shortfall of affordable housing to more than 3,000 units.

Chapman says the community needs to start talking about bridge housing.

VIDEO: Orange County apartments ruined in Hurricane Ian

“Let’s set up some little homes, pallet shelters, create little villages, and provide the services and the case management that people need to get on their feet in a year to 18 months,” Chapman said.  “In the meantime, perhaps a community can figure out affordable housing inventory.”

Mayor Demings says the county has been working from day one to help local families.

“Whether they’re low income or otherwise, to try to survive throughout this tragedy that we’re all experiencing,” Demings said.

But some organizations are warning the area’s resources are about to be tested even more.

At the Second Harvest Food Bank, they’re already shipping out 30 percent more daily meals than they were last month.

They say they’re expecting a wave of even more refugees from Southwest Florida where entire communities were wiped off the map.

“They’ll come here to live with family members,” Greg Higgerson of the Second Harvest Food Bank said. “So households that were already struggling here in Central Florida and have maybe two to three people will now have four people, five people, maybe a dog.”

With the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays just around the corner, they’re expecting the extra need to extend into their holiday preparations.

“We’ve never let people fall all the way to the bottom, and we’re not going to do that this time either,” Higgerson said.

READ: ‘Absolutely disgusting’: Deltona residents puzzled by standing water outside flood zones

The Salvation Army will be out at Cypress Landings Friday morning handing out food, water, and toiletries to the remaining first floor tenants.

They have until the end of the month to leave the site.

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