• Hurricane Maria victims still in need of shelter as FEMA help ends

    By: Lauren Seabrook

    Updated:

    KISSIMMEE, Fla. - Nearly a year out from Hurricane Maria, Friday was the very last day for FEMA to pay the bill for the hotel rooms housing evacuees.

    But families at the Baymont Inn and Suites in Kissimmee aren't moving out just yet, because a local no-profit gave them enough money to stay a little longer. 

    The evacuees who remain at hotels are some of the most vulnerable—elderly, in bad health and some are single mothers. 

    Through a translator, evacuee Maria Ribeara, said she doesn’t know what’s going to happen and is very scared. 

    At the beginning of 2018, about 800 families relied on FEMA's hotel program while local non-profits helped in the search for permanent housing. 

    The Hispanic Federation's been holding English classes and matching them with jobs.

    And now they're giving those still left in hotels $1,000 each.

    "We want to make sure that we do everything possible so these families will not be left out in the cold and in the street," said Betsy Frances Chini of the Hispanic Federation. 

    Of the 43 families left, the Hispanic Federation and local churches have helped nearly half find places to go in the last few days.

    But when the cash runs out, about 23 families could be homeless.

    "I know there's a perception that they're coming here to live off the government. That is not true. People want to progress. They just need the opportunity. They need to have the support," Frances said. 


     

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