Sen. Nelson meets with displaced families in Fort Pierce

Posted at 10:01 PM, Sep 21, 2017

People forced from their Treasure Coast apartment complex because of flood waters are still living in limbo.

On Thursday afternoon, Senator Bill Nelson paid a visit to the Red Cross shelter they're staying in to meet with storm victims.

There are about 40 people staying at the Percy Peek Gym, all of them displaced residents from Sabal Chase Apartments.

Some are transitioning into another place to stay but after staying there for well over a week, others are worried about where to go next.

"It's been very stressful knowing what answers or where to go but to see the city officials jump in and the senator come down to meet our personal needs that's a very big deal for us," said Jenice Faneite, a Sabal Chase resident who spent the past week staying at the shelter.

The city condemned 144 units on the first floor of the complex because of flooding and the risk of mold. Last week, around 138 families had just 48 hours to grab what they could and leave.

"We're hanging in there day by day. It's been sometimes very difficult. Red Cross has been doing everything to get us out, we've been trying to scramble to figure out what to do," said Faneite.

St. Lucie County and Fort Pierce city leaders are still working to find temporary homes for everyone.

"Getting temporary housing for them to get into hotels, motels. But we need to get that assistance so that they can get more permanently, into a permanent housing situation until those homes can be repaired," said Sen. Nelson.

During his visit on Thursday, Sen. Nelson told the people at this shelter he hopes to work with FEMA to expedite the process.

"They need somebody to cut through the red tape and fortunately I can call FEMA directly in Washington to see if we can get things moving," he said.

The Red Cross also said this shelter will stay open as long as it's needed.

"They're working with FEMA and local housing authority from st. Lucie county, they are getting every one of the 30 families -- by the time they have to shut down this shelter -- they're going to have every one of those 30 families located in temporary housing," said Sen. Nelson. "Individuals are apprehensive and of course when you get apprehensive, it's subject to rumor and they hear all kinds of things. But this is a success story as a shelter because they are going to accomplish all the things they set out to do."

Some people have been able to get their own housing but others have needed assistance, said Diana Wesloksi, Housing Manager for St. Lucie County.

“They no longer have a computer and a way to apply for FEMA. We do have FEMA here and they’ve been a great help. We’re getting them some case numbers so we can get them temporary housing and then move on to permanent housing,” said Wesloski. 

She added that no one will have to worry about being left behind.

“Sometimes FEMA requires documentation and people don’t have it or lost it, so we try to help with that. Someone might need a birth certificate so we can help with that. Just a lot of things you don’t think about — when you have everything, and the next day you don’t, it’s strange," she said.

St. Lucie County leaders said the apartment complex is continuing work on restoring the bottom floor units to living conditions. Demo work should be finished soon and a total completion time is hopefully expected in the next three months.

“We’re very optimistic and we’re hoping it will be sooner," said Wesloski.