NORTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - Several Food for Florida Disaster Food Assistance Program distribution sites had to close early, while Broward locations were reopened after a larger than expected turnout.
Sites in Miami-Dade also saw a huge turnout, Friday. An incredibly long line could be seen at Miami-Dade College’s North Campus. Some residents got in line as early as 5 a.m., despite the site opening at 7 a.m.
7Skyforce HD flew over the scene at C.B. Smith Park in Pembroke Pines where there was also a large turnout. This location was one of the first to close down before reopening again because of the large crowds, but closed them an hour later.
Residents at the sites arrived to apply for ACCESS Cards, which gives them benefits to purchase food for the next three months.
“I’ve been struggling because I work for Uber and Lyft. So we didn’t even get to work because of the hurricane,” said Hialeah Gardens resident Cora Manneh.
To qualify, you must be a resident of Miami-Dade or Broward, and you currently cannot receive food stamps.
“The allotment is decided between your salary, how many people are in your household, and also how much you spend,” said an employee at one of the sites.
“During the hurricane, it was really, really terrible,” said one woman in line. “We lost every food item that we had, and, you know, it’s not easy to be replaced, so I’m so thankful for this opportunity that I can be able to replace some of my food stock.”
Crowds across South Florida were so big at times that all sites in Broward and Miami-Dade had to close periodically throughout the day to accommodate the high demand.
One Broward resident said she waited for hours only to be turned away. “Basically, we sit out here, we stand out here, your kids are out here, and now they’re telling us to go home,” said Daniella Quintero, “basically that they’re closed, and it’s only 1:30.”
Many residents received a similar message at Amelia Earhart Park in Hialeah. The line was put on hold for a couple of hours until it reopened early Friday afternoon.
“I just retired. I’m going to be 70 years old, and I am in a lot of stress,” said Hialeah resident Martha Rivera.
Rivera said she’s ready for any help she can get. She has taught for 44 years, and the past month has taught her a lesson she’ll never forget.
Like many South Florida residents, preparing for Irma took a toll on Rivera’s bank account, and now she’s barely getting by. “I’m on a fixed income, and that fixed income is gone,” she said.
7News cameras rolled when she got the good news, and like many waiting in line, it meant one less thing to worry about.
“It makes a difference, because it’s money for food,” said Rivera.
“We’re just trying to survive and looking for whatever little help we can get.” said Miami Springs resident Raquel Constantine.
“A lot of people don’t have money to get food, and nine times out of 10, the best opportunity is right now, so why not go for it when you have it?” said another woman in line.
Officials said the reason for originally closing early was due to safety. “We call it a pause,” said Bronwyn Stanford with the Department of Children and Families. “We have to pause because the parks are at capacity, and it becomes a law enforcement and DCF together to determine that it’s just not safe.”
According to DCF, the scheduled closing time of the sites is 6 p.m. and will reopen at 7 a.m. on Saturday. The program is scheduled to go on until Sunday.
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