MIAMI (WSVN) - One week after Hurricane Irma slammed South Florida, the residents of two apartment buildings in Miami have not been able to return to their homes.
Officials from Housing and Urban Development and the City of Miami’s mayor himself are expected to address concerns the residents have in person, Tuesday afternoon.
Monday night, 7News cameras showed families sleeping in their cars and under canopies, as they continued to wait to get back inside the Civic Tower and Civic Tower Senior buildings, which provide Section 8 housing in Miami.
But the signs out front say no one is going in. The buildings, located in the area of Northwest 15th Avenue and 18th Street, remain shut down.
7News called the American Red Cross, and the organization answered, showing up outside the buildings.
Many of these people sitting in the parking lot of the complex haven’t eaten a warm meal in days after having evacuated before the storm.
A notice posted outside by management, dated Thursday, says the City of Miami Building Department deemed the buildings unsafe due to damage by Hurricane Irma.
But some aren’t buying it. Civic Towers resident Vladimir Padilla said, “When I went to my unit to pick up my belongings … it was nothing damaged. Everything was the same.”
The residents said it has been eight days since they have been kept out of the buildings.
Some residents said there were things wrong with the building before the storm.
Though one of the buildings was damaged by Irma, but leaders with Miami’s building and zoning department said there were issues with both buildings prior to the storm.
Building official Maurice Pons said the results of an inspection came late last week. “On Friday, they submitted to us a report deeming the buildings unsafe and unfit for people to be living in until the corrective work is done.”
When asked whether he has any other options, Padilla replied, “No. I could just say that I feel homeless. I’ve been sleeping in a car for seven days.”
Padilla said he won’t go to a shelter because he feels safer in the parking lot. He is waiting to hear back from the Federal Emergency Management Agency about housing assistance.
“This is my home,” said one woman as she pointed at her car, “because the owner’s gone.”
There was no answer at the building’s management office, and they refused to answer phone calls.
City of Miami officials issued the following statement, Tuesday morning: “It is the responsibility of the buildings’ owner and the funding agencies to provide alternate housing for their tenants. Since that was not happening, City of Miami Chief of Emergency Management coordinated with Florida Division of Emergency Management and Miami-Dade County to transport the residents to a shelter. Only a few accepted.”
Elsa Gomez’s mother is among those displaced. “These are poor, low-income people with special needs, so this is what happens to these people, my mother included,” said Gomez.
The buildings were already undergoing renovations before the storm. There is currently no timeline for re-entry.
The nonprofit Help Is All We Need is determined to make these residents’ wait for answers safer, at least for now. They provided food and portable bathrooms with showers.
“People need to eat. People need to drink,” said Help Is All We Need volunteer Antonio Mendez. “We’re here to back them up.”
“There are about 60, 70 people here,” said the Rev. Omar Figueras, another volunteer. “They take showers. It’s the only thing keeping them fresh and bring the anger down.”
“We pray to God everything will come out good,” said Padilla.
The city has been working to register residents with FEMA, so they can qualify for additional assistance.
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