Woman faints as thousands wait for SNAP aid in intense heat

SOUTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - A few people waiting to receive hurricane aid lined up outside a Southwest Miami-Dade park, Monday, not knowing operations have been halted until further notice.

Sunday was the last day of distribution for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) access cards.

Over the past couple of days people have waited in line to receive aid after hurricane Irma. However, the lines proved to be a bit much for some.

The hot South Florida sun took a toll on a woman who, officials and witnesses said, passed out while waiting in line to receive aid, Sunday.

The medical emergency occurred at Tropical Park in Southwest Miami-Dade, one of the distribution sites for SNAP access cards, as Florida’s Food for Florida Assistance Program entered its fifth day.

Veronica Crespo said she saw the woman fall to the ground. “She was sitting here up against — she kind of just fell over,” she said. “At first I thought maybe she twisted her ankle, but it turns out it’s the heat, and she’s very cold and clammy.”

Crespo immediately called 911, and Miami-Dade Fire Rescue quickly responded to the park.

For the thousands of South Floridians who have stood in line, day after day, in the hopes of receiving hurricane relief, the heat has been the biggest challenge.

But many told 7News they came prepared. “I brought my book bag. I brought my towel because it’s so hot,” said one woman at a Northwest Miami-Dade distribution location. “I brought a chair. I brought water, and I brought some snacks.”

“We got to stay hydrated with the Gatorade and the waters,” said Miami-Dade resident Josue Lopez. “We’re about to get the food stamps, so we’re looking foward to that.”

The SNAP access cards are loaded with funds to purchase food. The amount on each one depends on income, the number of people in a family’s household and how much loss they faced after Hurricane Irma.

“I really appreciate it. This moment here, it was a blessing,” said Jermaine.

Another man puts it more succinctly. “It’s worth it,” he said.

With only three locations open in Miami-Dade County on Sunday, the lines started overnight.

“We got here at 1 in the morning,” said one woman.

“Ten hours I waited in line,” said the woman at the Northwest Miami-Dade site.

The Florida Department of Children and Families credited law enforcement for organizing the crowds and keeping the lines moving smoothly.

“Very controlled, and I have law enforcement to thank for that. They’ve been phenomenal,” said site manager Jose Figueredo.

“People have been really nice. Everyone’s been sharing,” said one woman. “Like, when people leave, [they’d say], ‘Oh, you want water?'”

“Everything went well, and we’re grateful,” said one man.

The peaceful atmosphere stood in sharp contrast to previous days.

“They’ve been pushing, they’ve been fighting, they’ve been shoving,” one woman told 7News on Saturday.

The long lines Wednesday through Saturday turned chaotic. DCF chose to not even open their tents at Amelia Earhart Park in Hialeah, Saturday or Sunday, citing health and safety concerns.

All Broward locations also remained closed on Sunday.

DCF is working to extend the Food for Florida Program later this month for those turned away when lines hit capacity. “We may resume a smaller operation for a three-day period,” said Figueredo.

Sunday alone, organizers cut off the line at 10,000 people.

“If I knew it was going to be like that, I would have come here at 3 a.m., get it out of the way quick,” said Matthew Arocena, “but I guess that’s what you can expect last minute, last day.”

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