(WSVN) - Florida’s housing crisis is putting the state’s most vulnerable population at risk. While seniors should be enjoying their retirement, some are fighting homelessness and struggling to keep a roof over their heads. Here’s Karen Hensel with our special assignment series, “Paradise Lost.”
The golden years. That is what 82-year-old Gustavo Medrano and his wife were looking forward to when they moved to Century Village in Pembroke Pines two years ago.
Gustavo Medrano: “I came here to relax. These are the last days of my life. I don’t know how long I’m going to be here.”
But golden is not how he would describe his life now. He’s afraid his money will run out because of increases in his monthly condo fees.
Gustavo Medrano: “They want to charge us $200 increase, supposedly because of the insurance companies.”
Like many seniors, Gustavo lives on Social Security, and the $200 monthly increase is stretching his limited budget.
Gustavo Medrano: “I’m thinking all the time, ‘What am I going to do? I am going to the end of the money that I’m getting.'”
Rising rent forced James Blair and his wife out of their Miami apartment. The challenge was finding an affordable place to go.
James Blair: “You call the government or all of these places, and they got a year to five-year waiting list. Some of them want you to pay an app fee up front, and you’re still looking at one or two years to wait. Well, hell, you could die before you got in, right?”
He finally found an apartment that is less expensive but a lot smaller.
James Blair: “We’ll be divesting ourselves of a lot of things just to have a place to live.”
Many seniors are finding their incomes are not keeping up with rising housing costs.
Max Rothman, Alliance For Aging: “The percentage of income that an older person — and they’re on fixed income — is spending on housing, is well over 30% of their income.”
Seventy-two-year-old Robert Noel Earl knows that firsthand. He was forced to live on the streets of Broward County for nearly three months.
Robert Noel Earl, formerly homeless: “I was nervous, scared. I fought the rain, the bugs.”
His Social Security benefits were enough to buy food. But a place to live was out of reach.
Robert Noel Earl: “They told me the rent is $1,000 or better. I said, ‘I’m not going to be able to stand that,’ because I wasn’t making that much.”
So he camped out on the front lawn of this soup kitchen. And he’s not alone.
Seniors make up at least 15% of Broward’s homeless population. In Miami-Dade, they are at least 20%.
Jacob Torner, TaskForce Fore Ending Homelessness: “Not only are we seeing a rise in the age of people who are experiencing homelessness, but we’re seeing more and more seniors fall into homelessness, specifically here in Broward County.”
The TaskForce Fore Ending Homelessness was able to find a place for Robert to live.
But all of the agencies across South Florida that are designed to help seniors are being burdened by the sheer number of people who are in crisis.
Max Rothman: “Housing doesn’t turn up overnight. It’s a slow process, and some people are facing eviction tomorrow.”
It is a sad and frightening reality for so many. The skyrocketing cost of housing has many thinking South Florida is no longer an affordable place to live, and that paradise truly is lost.
Karen Hensel, 7News.
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