Yel­low wristbands, seg­re­ga­tion for Florida home­less in Irma

Porterville Recorder - - THE RECORD - By JA­SON DEAREN and KELLI KENNEDY

ST. AU­GUS­TINE, Fla. — Shelby Hoogendyk says that when she, her hus­band and her 17-month-old son ar­rived at an emer­gency shel­ter as Hur­ri­cane Irma closed in, they were sep­a­rated from oth­ers by yel­low wristbands and told to stay in an area with other peo­ple like them — the home­less.

Sher­iff’s deputies, she says, told them the wristbands were prompted by prob­lems that arose among home­less peo­ple at the shel­ter dur­ing Hur­ri­cane Matthew a year ear­lier.

“We were treated like we were guilty crim­i­nals,” Hoogendyk says.

In the storm’s wake, home­less peo­ple and their ad­vo­cates are com­plain­ing that some of them were turned away, seg­re­gated from the oth­ers, de­nied cots and food, de­prived of med­i­ca­tion re­fills and doc­tors’ vis­its, or oth­er­wise ill-treated dur­ing the evac­u­a­tion.

Many of the com­plaints have been blamed on mis­un­der­stand­ings, the sheer mag­ni­tude of the dis­as­ter, the crush of peo­ple need­ing shel­ter im­me­di­ately, or in­ad­e­quate state and lo­cal emer­gency plan­ning.

All told, a record 72,000 Florid­i­ans sought refuge from the hur­ri­cane in early Septem­ber at nearly 400 shel­ters. The re­sponse var­ied widely by county.

In Mi­ami, over 700 home­less were picked up and taken to shel­ters. In Col­lier County, the sher­iff sent of­fi­cers into home­less en­camp­ments in the woods to bring peo­ple to a shel­ter. But in Polk County, Sher­iff Grady Judd warned that any evac­uees with war­rants against them and all sex of­fend­ers seek­ing shel­ter would be taken to jail. And in Vo­lu­sia County, some of­fi­cials were ac­cused of turn­ing home­less evac­uees away from shel­ters with­out ex­pla­na­tion.


This un­dated mo­bile phone photo shows her hus­band Casey Huff­man, with their 17 month-old son Cae­lan Hoogendyk at a hur­ri­cane shel­ter in St. Au­gus­tine, Fla.

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