Thousands of Keys residents displaced for the holidays

(WSVN) - It has been three months since Irma stormed through the Florida Keys as a Category 4 hurricane. And the island chain is still suffering. 7’s Brian Entin reports — so many have no home for the holidays.

This is not old video from the Florida Keys. This is now.

In parts of the lower Keys, little has changed since Hurricane Irma hit on Sept. 10.

There are small signs of Christmas like an ornament on a fence and a wreath … all surrounded by devastation.

We went into the hardest hit neighborhood on Big Pine Key looking for this woman…

Brian Entin: “Are you doing OK?”

Donna Allison, Big Pine Key resident: “Yeah, I’m OK.”

Brian Entin: “Good to see you again.”

Donna Allison: “Good to see you too.”

Her name is Donna Allison, and we first found her alone and scared two days after the storm.

Donna Allison: “Oh my God, it was bad. Bad. Don’t ever stay in your home. If you are disabled, get out because you are going to die.”

She lived in her badly damaged home for two months.

At the end of November, she moved with her two dogs into a FEMA trailer in her driveway.

Donna Allison: “It has saved me from having to live with the bugs. And the uncleanliness. And not having hot water. And here, I have heat, I have air.”

Donna’s home is one of 1,200 destroyed by Irma.

Many cannot be rebuilt.

Donna Allison: “I don’t know how I am going to get rid of my home if they make me destroy it. I am just now starting to face these problems.”

Brian Entin: “Many of the people who lived in these devastated neighborhoods lost their jobs because the hotels and restaurants they work for are still rebuilding. So with nowhere to work and nowhere to live … some have decided to leave the Keys.”

Commissioner George Neugent, Monroe County: “We are already losing a lot of people. I think we will lose 15 to 20 percent of our population before this is over.”

Many of the employees at the Winn-Dixie on Big Pine Key left after Irma … and didn’t come back.

Kenny Lowe, Winn-Dixie store manager: “They don’t have anywhere to live now. And there is no housing for them to move back into now unfortunately.”

Kenny Lowe has become somewhat of a local hero. He’s known for opening the store when everything else was closed right after Irma.

Kenny Lowe: “We are going to try to service as many people as possible in a two-hour time frame. Again, we have got volunteers on cash registers.”

Kenny gave people hope then, and there are glimmers of hope now.

For Donna, it’s this little Christmas tree in her FEMA trailer.

Donna Allison: “At night, I can turn the lights off. And you can see the lights like when you were a child. I void out the rest of my home, my world. I’m sorry I can’t. I’m going to start crying.”

The holidays are hard for people dealing with loss. And in the Keys, reminders of what Irma took are everywhere.

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