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Belle Glade families get relief from cockroach, rat infestations

Renovations are underway at the Okeechobee Center in Belle Glade.jpg
Posted at 3:32 PM, Mar 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-29 17:37:49-04

BELLE GLADE, Fla. — Mildew on the walls and homes infested with rats and cockroaches.

WPTV first told you about the terrible conditions some families in Belle Glade had to deal with nearly two years ago. But now, improvements have been made to hundreds of units.

Tractors are on the move inside the Okeechobee Center in Belle Glade as renovations are being made at the farmworker housing complex.

"Before I had so much problem in my house," said resident Nicole Henry.

Henry, speaking with WPTV through a translator, described the horrific conditions inside her unit her family endured about three years ago.

"No sleeping, no sleeping," Henry said.

Henry said she couldn't sleep because mice were chewing on her daughters feet. Her six-month-old son needed surgery because of a cockroach infestation inside his ear canal, and the walls were covered in mildew.

"Some of the units were in very bad shape, so it was very dire," said Ramona Hyson, the president and CEO of Nelson & Associates, Inc., the new management company hired by the Belle Glade Housing Authority.

Hyson took over last year and is now working with a $2.6 million budget to make the improvements.

"That included doing all the roads here, speed bumps, striping, and we're repairing units," Hyson said.

RELATED: New management coming after farmworker housing complaints

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay led the charge to help these families, reaching out to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott and the USDA.

Now, kitchen cabinets are being replaced, new paint, new floors, some roofs have been replaced, and dirt and sod are being put down around the units to help keep out rodents.

Another change is that the office is now open every day with management on site. It's a place residents can come to pay rent and meet with someone if they have issues or concerns.

"We are in conversations with the USDA to develop a plan to move forward to make additional repairs and improvements," Hyson said.

Henry said these changes have helped her family have a safe place to call home.

"My house very good, very, very, good," Hyson said.