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Capitol Correspondence - 04.15.19

Hurricane Michael Exacerbates Housing Shortage for People with Disabilities in Florida

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ANCOR is sharing this article by the Tallahassee Democrat to increase awareness of people with disabilities’ greater struggles to find housing compared to their peers without disabilities.

As shared by the Tallahassee Democrat:

“When Hurricane Michael raged through Amanda Baker’s Panama City neighborhood six months ago today, the nightmare was just beginning.

Baker lives with cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair to move.

[…]

Baker’s home has since been gutted, deemed uninhabitable. The 38-year-old now lives in a senior living facility in Tallahassee — the only accessible affordable housing unit she could find in the capital city.

Baker’s story is not unique.

Already in Florida, affordable housing that’s accessible for people with disabilities is hard to come by. After Michael, the need is gaping.

‘The pool to choose from to relocate people is small,’ said Carol Stachursky, team operations manager at Disability Rights Florida, a Tallahassee-based statewide advocacy group.

[…]

For this specific population, FEMA has no particular case manager who guides people with disabilities through the system. This leaves a portion of the population vulnerable.

Director of FEMA’s Disabilities Integration and Coordination office Linda Mastandrea says the agency deploys ‘advisers’ to train FEMA disaster assistance teams in impacted areas on helping disaster survivors with disabilities. But these advisers don’t work directly with survivors.

Aside from FEMA, there are other agencies people with disabilities may need to contact to get help, such as Housing Authority offices to transfer Section 8 vouchers, and Social Security offices for disability income.

[…]

The problem lies not with the availability of resources, but rather with the standardization of a process that’s more complex to fully help people with those needs.

[…]

It took about two months to transfer Baker’s Section 8 voucher to Tallahassee from the Panama City Housing Authority’s damaged office. Not to mention, Baker had to retrieve her birth certificate and other documents “that you’re not thinking (of) when you’re fleeing your house,” she said.

‘It’s crazy,’ she said. ‘Without a team of people behind you, it’s impossible.’”