Hurricane Maria evacuees call for long-term housing

With their homes on the island destroyed and continued funding for temporary housing in Florida in question, about a dozen advocates for displaced Puerto Rican families appealed to Orange County leaders for help during Tuesday’s County Commission meeting.

Danna Cayac said she and her husband and two children moved to Florida after Hurricane Irma destroyed their home.  She said she currently works two jobs, but the family doesn’t have the means to move out of their FEMA-funded hotel room, in part because it costs so much to apply for rental property.

With fees for background checks and credit checks, she says it costs hundreds of dollars every time she applies to rent a home.

“And then they tell you there are no apartments after that.  The $450 dollars is gone and then they tell you to come back in 3 to 4 months to see what’s available,” she said through a translator.

Cayac said she planned to ask county leaders to create a centralized credit and background check system so that families didn’t have to shell out money over and over again.  

On top of that, families are required to post three-months’ rent in order to move into public housing, said State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, (D)-Orlando.

Smith said public housing in Orange County is at 100 percent, so he planned to urge county leaders to look for more rooms and buildings to open up as shelters.

“There are resources out there, but then there are other rules… that are well-intended that are blocking them from being able to access this assistance that they need,” Smith said.

The group also called on the county commissioners to help them create a renters’ bill of rights and pressure FEMA to extend housing funding through June.

FEMA extended a deadline for temporary last week. Maria evacuees are now covered through mid-May.