Puerto Rican families living in Brandon losing FEMA hotels before apartments are ready

Families say FEMA is leaving them hanging
Posted at 4:59 PM, Apr 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-17 18:37:31-04

BRANDON, Fla. — "It hasn't been easy,” Yesnia Gomez told ABC Action News through her translator.

Hurricane Maria took her family's home in Puerto Rico.

The Gomez family is just 20 days away from having a new one, an apartment in Brandon.

"She moves in May 11. She already gave the deposit. Everything is paid for,” said her translator.

But this mom, husband and their five children, two living with autism, will be homeless come Friday.

"It's very frustrating because when you do things right, it's still no help. It's not like they have abided by what FEMA had told them,” said Jeannie Calderin, Advocate with the Tampa Underground.

The Tampa Underground, a network of micro-churches, has been helping the Gomez family and hundreds of others make the transition from a hotel room paid for by FEMA to a long-term apartment through the Boricua Resource Program.

"She just needs 20 days to have a home for she and her children,” said Gomez.

FEMA sent the family a text yesterday telling them they have to leave the hotel Friday instead of extending their stay until May 8 when their apartment becomes ready to occupy.

"She received some money from FEMA so she could start getting an apartment, getting the housing that she needs. Since she received that, they're not going to extend her hotel,” said Gomez.

What's even more alarming is that the Gomez family isn't alone.

There are a handful of others living at the Clarion Hotel on East Adamo Drive that will be homeless as well, including an 84-year-old grandmother.

"She feels that FEMA just left her hanging,” said Gomez.

Hurricane Maria left these families with nothing. Months later, they may be right back where they started if FEMA doesn't change its mind or someone else in Tampa Bay steps in to help.

"What they can do is maybe help us pay for them to stay here,” said Calderin.

ABC Action News asked the family what they plan to do if they can't find a place to stay for the next 20 days.

They say their mini-van is in the parking lot and they'd rather sleep in it than be separated in different shelters.