People wait hours for food assistance in wake of Hurricane Irma

Huge lines as people wait for help after Irma
Posted at 10:40 PM, Oct 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-16 06:04:44-04

A massive line outside a disaster assistance center in Lakeland forces officials to stop more people from hopping in line. Folks lining up to get help from the Food for Florida program after getting hit by Hurricane Irma.

Outside the RP Funding Building they waited under rain, shuffling forward on hot concrete for hours.
“My feet, back leg everything is hurting," said Linda Felicien. She's been waiting since 6 a.m., an hour before the center officially opened.

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Like many others in line her food spoiled after days without power. Food that's not so easy to replace when you’re living pay check to pay check.

“It ain’t gotta be that much but whatever they can give me will be a blessing," she said.

Brenda DeLeon almost didn’t make it in line after seeing what the Florida Department of Children and Families is calling an unprecedented response.

RELATED | Irma debris pickup starts in Polk County, major roadways will be blocked

“I couldn’t believe it!” she said of length of the lines, "The first thing I said was 'No, I’m going back home.'"

Nonetheless, she stuck it out and in line her family had nothing but smiles for one reason.

“I’m Puerto Rican and after what's happening over there, we are blessed," she said.

But she does wonder why a line in the first place?

“This is a recommendation for next time, they should do it online," she said.

A DCF spokeswoman tells ABC Action News meeting face-to-face for this program is a federal requirement. Others, meanwhile, asking for better crowd control after folks cut the line.

“I told her she needed to go to the back of the line and that I hoofed my butt to the back of the line," said Jody Doughty about confronting a line cutter.

Inside the center others going through the emotional moment that they've waited for.

“It feels good it’s been a long day, I’ve been here since 4 a.m.," said Kevin Castillo.

Shuffling for hours under rain and over hot concrete all for a a small EBT card. Small yet a big representation of returning to normal.

The center reopens Sunday at 7 a.m. and will open every day until Wednesday October 18th.