ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Central Florida has seen a 7% increase in the homeless population since 2020 and the problem has only worsened in Ian’s aftermath.
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Several hundred residents were displaced by floodwaters, and some were unable to find a place to live.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office organized a homelessness resource fair Saturday to assist people with that need and about two hundred people were in attendance.
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Haircuts, food assistance, on-site showers and clothing help were big draws for attendees like Thomasina Harrison, who got a few clothing items and a pocketbook.
The sheriff’s office organized this homelessness resource fair to help those struggling to make ends meet.
OCSO’s #ImpactHomelessness Resource Fair was a success!— Orange County Sheriff's Office (@OrangeCoSheriff) October 22, 2022
Deputies and community members offered services and opportunities for those in need. We fed hundreds of people and connected them with necessary resources.
A huge THANK YOU to our partners who helped! #MakingADifference pic.twitter.com/XAPhqHrbhJ
The goal was to help those who are one paycheck away from homelessness and those who no longer have a home to call their own.
Miriam Alicea lost her home due to flooding in the Cypress Landing Apartments.
“We got flooded September 28th,” she said. “We were underwater.”
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She lost everything. And as the floodwaters from Hurricane Ian receded, her apartment was left uninhabitable and cost her thousands of dollars in damages.
“You got to learn how to survive,” Alicea said. “It’s not easy, but you got to do it.”
Alicea applied for FEMA help at the county’s disaster recovery center on the first day that it opened, but she said there has been little progress. She said she is pending and waiting to be notified of the benefits.
While she waits for FEMA funds, Alicea is taking advantage of events like this one, dragging along a pink folder full of documents and hoping the organizations could help with her next steps — finding an apartment or a house.
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Before the event wrapped up at 1 p.m., Alicea stopped at three different tents that were dedicated to help those with housing needs.
“(Looking for) anything safe. Not a flood zone,” she said. “I’m traumatized because of that, but anything that is possible to live safe and I can be happy again.”
In addition to immediate needs like clothing and food assistance, OCSO said that part of the goal in alleviating the issue of homelessness is connecting people to resources than can help them transition out of their situations.
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