(WSVN) - While they should be enjoying their golden years, many South Florida seniors are struggling financially, and now the state of Florida is seeing a surge in homeless seniors. 7’s Kevin Ozebek investigates.

At 65 years old, this woman, who we’ll refer to as “Maria,” never imagined life being so tough.

Maria: “The rent kept going up, more and more.”

She and her 95-year-old mother don’t want their faces shown.

Last month, they were evicted from their apartment.

They fell behind on rent when it climbed from $1,000 to nearly $1,600 a month.

Kevin Ozebek: “Did you ever think at this stage in your life, this is where you would be?”

Maria’s mother: “No, I sure didn’t.”

Maria: “She wakes up not knowing where we are going to be next. It’s frightening not knowing if you are going to end up on the streets.”

The two burned through their savings by staying in hotels, and just as they were preparing to start sleeping in Maria’s car, they found Mia Casa.

This seniors-only community is owned by the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust.

Ron Book, Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust chairman: “I never expected to see people older than me, people my age, people just younger than me, being the dominant growing group of individuals on hard times. I just never thought I’d see that.”

Ron Book is chairman of the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust.

In 2018, his organization helped 3,086 seniors with housing. Last year, that number was 3,732. Now, nearly one in three homeless in Miami-Dade are age 55 and older.

Ron Book: “The face of homelessness today are the elderly.”

In Broward County, the number of homeless seniors has soared as well.

Broward Housing Solutions says about half of the county’s homeless are seniors.

Those trying to help this growing group of homeless refer to the problem as the “Silver Tsunami.”

Maria: “I plan on trying to find another place, but it’s very hard.”

What happened to Maria and her mother perfectly illustrates why the Silver Tsunami is washing over South Florida. Seniors on fixed incomes just cannot stay afloat in our housing market.

Ron Book: “Those that are renters are becoming homeless, and we have this growing problem of great significance.”

Here at Mia Casa, there’s no shortage of heartbreaking stories.

We also met 78-year-old Norma Barana.

Norma Barana, Mia Casa resident, through translator: “Very painful to see myself like this.”

After her husband died, she lost her home in Allapattah.

The Homeless Trust found her living on the street in downtown Miami.

Norma describes the experience as soul-crushing …

Norma Barana: “Dying, to the point I wanted to take my own life, because I am not used to that. I am used to at least living in a room.”

Norma, Maria and Maria’s mother now have a home here at Mia Casa, and because there is such a need for affordable housing, the Housing Trust plans to convert three more properties into permanent housing for those in South Florida who are most in need.

Kevin Ozebek, 7News.


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