OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. — Former residents of the Good Samaritan Village complex in Kissimmee said they’re being told to leave their hotel by Friday to free up rooms for reserved guests, three months after flood waters overtook their homes during Hurricane Ian.
The residents of the senior living community were evacuated quickly after the storm passed with often just the clothes they were wearing. They first moved into three different hotels in the area using FEMA assistance but had to leave those locations in the fall due to capacity issues.
From the hundreds who were initially forced to evacuate, residents said approximately 50 remained as of this weekend, unable to find a new place to live.
“That process has been extremely slow,” Norvetta Warren said. “A lot of that due to the availability of the apartments and places to live.”
Warren, a former HOA community leader, said she looked at more than four dozen apartments, but they either had issues with accessibility or were too expensive. The ones that checked all the boxes wanted proof that she had three months’ rent on hand, which she didn’t due to the rebuilding process, she said.
Good Samaritan was known for offering apartments and mobile home lots below market cost, making it a secure place to live for a senior on fixed income. The loss of the flooded units, which executives said they do not plan to rebuild or replace on higher ground, was a painful loss to Osceola County’s senior housing supply.
According to court documents, two pairs of residents refused to move out of their condemned apartments by the December 1 deadline Good Samaritan gave. Their exact reason for moving out was unclear, but property managers began the eviction process shortly before Christmas so they could continue demolishing flooded buildings.
Good Samaritan executives would not provide any more information about the evictions, citing a blanket policy against commenting on pending litigation.
“Everybody’s final goal is to have a place to live,” Warren said. “We don’t want to be in a hotel.”
Warren said she found a new place in Good Samaritan – one without a history of flooding -- and was planning to move back.
Her friend, Teresa Kountz, was also at the end of her temporary displacement. Kountz said she found an apartment nearby and had signed a lease with her daughter since she couldn’t afford the payments on her own.
However, she remained at the hotel for an extra two weeks because she couldn’t find any affordable furniture to put in it, such as basic items like a mattress.
“We’re finding it,” she said, in between trips to furniture stores. “It’s not like a list saying these are the organizations that can help you with the furniture [exists].”
Kountz said each displaced resident would continue to receive FEMA assistance funding for their lodgings, but it was up to each to figure out where to go. She said the funding was subject to review every two months, which did not provide enough stability for potential landlords as they worked to get back on their feet.
She said the bigger loss was the centralized location, though, because it meant the end of services that had been a lifeline for many of the seniors, particularly the less mobile ones.
Warren said some of those older seniors hadn’t taken much initiative, describing a situation where some of them were overwhelmed and chose to remain in their hotel rooms unless they were certain an apartment would be a perfect fit for them.
“There’s no Meals on Wheels, there’s no medical [service],” Kountz said. “I am afraid that they will be left and forgotten because it seems like the agencies are pulling out.”
An Osceola County spokesperson told Channel 9 in an email that federal,, state and local partners are currently and will continue to support Good Samaritan residdnets with services and support, including long-term housing needs.
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