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41 families still looking for homes as shelter closing looms

By Staff | Oct 4, 2008

Like the flood waters that plagued Manna Christian and Saldivar mobile home parks in Bonita Springs, the mad scramble to find homes for those displaced families seems to have finally subsided.

With the closing date for the Estero Community Center shelter looming on Oct. 10, county staffers were working wildly to come up with viable solutions for the disaffected. Now it seems as if they have decided to come up with their own.

“That the people can’t return to their homes, that’s becoming a reality now,” said Ann Arnall, deputy director for county human services. “And they’re starting to understand the shelter isn’t going to stay open forever, either.”

Arnall said there are now only about 41 families who have not found housing, adding that the county was “optimistic” that 30 of those families have the resources and ability to “make it happen,” and find housing on their own.

One of the initial problems was finding affordable housing or rental properties in Bonita Springs.

Now it seems families have dispersed throughout the greater Lee County area, from Fort Myers to Lehigh, using funds raised by the Red Cross and the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.

That only leave a few families without homes.

“There are going to be that handful of 10 or 12 families that we’re going to have to get creative with,” she said.

At issue, too, is the fate of the Manna Christian mobile home park. About 40 units were cleared for return at the Saldivar park, but the 30 inhabitable units at Manna Christian are still awaiting clearance due to electrical concerns.

The county is currently waiting on an appraisal of the property, and might actually purchase the property to prevent similar situations. county Commissioners were decidedly split on the subject at their weekly meeting on Sept. 30.

But until a decision is made, the owner could simply release the spots to new mobile home owners once the park is cleared for return.

Arnall said it was a foregone conclusion the park would flood again.

“There’s really not a way for the county to prevent the owner from re-renting those lots, not unless the county purchases it,” Arnall said. “It’s frustrating because it’s going to happen again.”

Workers at the shelter on Friday afternoon said the families still remaining were positive and not in fear of the closing date.

“We’ve had a great response and people are trying to move on,” said Carmen Munoz, a shelter volunteer. “A lot of families already have places to move.”

She went on to say she was “surprised” by the overall attitudes and spirits of those who are now forced to move, adding that it was difficult for people to realize they can’t go back.

“Everyone is in great spirits, laughing, enjoying the moments; its not like life is ending,” she said.