ORLANDO, Fla. — Freddy Clayton inspected the grounds of the old motel, noting piles of trash strewn across the grass and bits of building materials near guest room entrances.
“It’s a setback,” he said, “but it’s manageable for us.”
Clayton, president of the Orlando Union Rescue Mission, operates his men’s shelter on the property. A total of 140 short- and long-term residents live here for 30 days to a year, learning to overcome addiction, seeking therapy, and participating in jobs or services to keep busy.
Last week, the facility was submerged by floodwaters from a bog in the back. Over two feet of water slammed against some of his buildings and penetrated the units – 17 of them were destroyed, displacing 32 men.
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Clayton made room for them by doubling the number of beds in the other rooms. However, replacing drywall and furniture in the affected units, along with repairs to the laundry room and other miscellaneous costs, will cost him approximately $150,000. This is a cost that his department can absorb temporarily but will have to compensate for in the long term. He has already started fundraising to help.
“It’s a big chunk for a nonprofit operation,” he said.
The damage, however, is another blow to housing supply in the Orlando area. Already struggling with significant migration trends before Ian, the city now faces a likely eviction crisis after the storm inundated apartment buildings, many in low-income areas.
This week, some of these buildings took the necessary steps required by Florida law and terminated their tenants’ leases. At the Cypress Landing Apartment complex, tenants said they lacked the resources to rebuild their lives. They added that they also couldn’t find rents as low as they were paying in other facilities.
Clayton said his ministry receives 20 phone calls a day from families seeking refuge in his shelters. Both were already full, he said.
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“Our resources are exhausted,” he said. “I know the resources of the other establishments in the city that house the homeless, they are completely exhausted. So we have to find another way to house these people on a short-term basis in response to this emergency. »
So far, Orange County officials have not drawn up a plan or suggested that any form of contingency plan has been developed in the event of a disaster like Ian’s. A commissioner said the county did not expect the waters to rise as high as they did. Another official said affected families should immediately seek help from FEMA.
“I’m not sure anyone has a meaningful short-term solution to the emergency caused by the hurricane,” Clayton mused.
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Already there were signs that people’s pleas for help were being heeded. Cypress Landing informed its tenants on Wednesday that October rents would be refunded once keys are returned and waivers are signed.
Still, Clayton predicted the storm’s longer-term effects. Rents would rise, he said, because of competition and the ability for landlords to renovate their homes and put them back on the market at a higher price.
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The storm is not only affecting families looking for new homes, but also working-class families in the area, young professionals and adults who have graduated from the ministry’s program and are trying to live on their own again.
This, he said, represented another hurdle for these men and women to overcome on a long journey back to normalcy, just as Central Florida itself will experience as it withdrawing from the floods.
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