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More families facing homelessness in Palm Beach County amid rising housing costs

Mother living in SUV after rent increases from $1,800 to $3,500
Posted at 6:00 AM, May 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-11 06:00:59-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — As the cost of living soars in South Florida, families across the area are being priced out of paradise and forced into homelessness.

"I never expected any of this," a mother, who WPTV is not naming, said.

We met the homeless mother as she left work as a nurse.

"I've been working and trying to stay above water," she said. "Right now, it's a fight for survival."

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The SUV she drives is now her home.

"I don't want to be one of those that, they open my door, I'm no longer breathing," she said. "I wake up in pain, and I cry it out and I have a smile on my face when I go to work."

Homeless mother
A homeless mother speaks about living in her SUV while still working as a nurse.

She explained how her problems started late last year when she said her rent increased from $1,800 to $3,500 a month.

Six months later, she said she's stuck spending sleepless nights in her SUV, parked at gas stations.

"They want you to make three times the rent. They want you to have renter's insurance. They want you to have a credit score of 700," she said. "I always pray, and I say God is going to take me out of this one day because I'm a good person."

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Today, this mother’s story is what homelessness looks like in South Florida.

"They're sleeping in their cars," Debra Tendrich with the nonprofit Eat Better Live Better said. "We have a lot of families whose landlords have increased their rents so much they're not going to have a home soon."

Tendrich is on the front lines of the need in our community and said the situation is getting worse.

Debra Tendrich, Eat Better Live Better
Debra Tendrich shares some of the heartbreaking stories of people facing tough times as they struggle to afford housing in South Florida.

"We actually get calls that say, 'I'm on the corner of here and here. Can you please bring me something? I'm starving,'" she said.

WPTV also met another mother, who wanted to be called "Shy." Her family is living in a West Palm Beach hotel.

"I never expected to be one of these people that goes through a tough time like this," she said.

The disabled veteran said a rent increase last year left her family scrambling to find a home.

"We bounced around, stayed with family, couch surfed but finally it came to a point where we could no longer do that," she said.

Homeless woman named 'Shy'
"Shy" speaks from a West Palm Beach hotel room where she is currently living after rental increases that she could not afford.

The nonprofit Stand Down, which assists veterans, moved "Shy" and her family into the hotel in January.

"This is a place to lay my head at night," she said. "This is not home."

"Shy" said finding somewhere to live — even with a housing voucher — has been impossible.

"I have two kids. I'm in my 30s. I should be able to take care of myself and my kids," she said. "I've overcome before, and I will again. I'm sure."

A Point-in-Time Count by Palm Beach County in 2020 found more than 1,500 homeless people living in the county. New and updated numbers are expected to be released soon.

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