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Shelters prepare for influx of people looking for assistance

TAMPA, Fla. – This World Homeless Day, shelters in central and southwest Florida are seeing more people looking to them for help after Hurricane Ian. Now those shelters are preparing for what the coming months may look like.

Stefanie Edwards is the CEO of the community cooperative. It is a Fort Myers-based nonprofit that focuses on feeding and housing those in need.

“The impact of Hurricane Ian is unprecedented in this community,” Edwards said. “I don’t know if anyone in our community is prepared and ready for what it will look like to put it back together.”

Help is pouring in for Community Cooperative.

Tampa Bay Window Sunshades sent five trucks worth from donations days after the storm, which provided much-needed help to the shelter that quickly became a hub for those in need.

“We’ve been up and running since Thursday after the storm,” Edwards said. “Many years ago we were blessed with the big old generator, which started immediately the moment our power went out.”

Edwards said they have seen a large increase in the need for food early on.

“Our numbers out there with hot food out are four times what they would be on a normal day,” she continued. “Our pantry and our emergency food programs, I can’t even tell you. I think we serve about 2,500 people a day on average.”

The next step is aimed at long-term aid.

“We had a really tough housing market before, and now the inventory will be a lot less. I’m scared of what that will look like for us,” Edwards said.

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As resources become scarce in southwest Florida, Tampa Bay has seen many people come our way in search of help.

Christine Long is the head of programs for Metropolitan Ministries. She said Tampa Bay could become a welcome home for people displaced by the storm.

“It’s very typical for people to want to move shortly after a storm, especially storms that are relatively close like this one,” Long said.

Metropolitan Ministries is already helping people affected by Ian.

“We are definitely going to maximize our shelter and housing space that we have,” Long continued. “Also looking at motels, then support for families while they are in motels.”

Those looking for more long-term shelter can take place in a month or two.

In the meantime, the Community Cooperative is accepting donations to continue helping those most in need.

“What’s going to happen next as we move toward our recovery effort here is money,” Long said. “It will be the long-term help to get people back on track.”

Community Cooperative is collecting donations. You can find more information here. You can find more information to donate to Metropolitan Ministries here.

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