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One year since the collapse in Surfside, Roe v. Wade overturned, and rising costs in South Florida

Abortion-rights activists in favor of a bill legalizing abortion gather outside the legislative building in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Thursday.
Anna Gassot
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AFP/Getty Images
An abortion-rights supporter argues with an anti-abortion-rights protester in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on May 21 during demonstrations in defense of abortion rights.

A ceremony marked one year since the Champlain Towers collapse. The reversal of Roe vs. Wade has people wondering how abortion access will look like in Florida. And, how has inflation and increasing costs affected South Florida’s communities?

Friday marked one year since the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside. Ninety-eight people died in the disaster. A memorial service was held at the site of the collapse, where the families of the victims, First Lady Jill Biden, first responders involved in the rescue efforts and more paid their respects.

Since the tragedy, we’ve seen laws and ordinances enacted across South Florida and at the state level, intending to bolster oversight on condo buildings to make sure this doesn't happen again.

And Thursday, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman approved the $1 billion settlement to the families of the victims.

“It’s unheard of really for a case of this magnitude and this size to be settled in one year,” said WLRN’s Health Reporter Verónica Zaragovia “Usually this would’ve taken like a decade.”

Zaragovia said the settlement brings some closure to the families because they can finally put the case behind them, but it doesn’t bring any answers. Answers about the collapse might not come for another year, she said.

The tower collapse, the court case, and the lack of answers about the collapse all factor into the trauma that the families of the victims and first responders have experienced and may continue to experience.

Maria Bedoya, the Director of Student Health at St. Thomas University and a licensed mental health counselor, spoke with us one year ago to discuss the trauma victims may face immediately after a disaster. A year later, she joined us again to discuss how ongoing trauma may affect others.

“Part of the effects that we see today for what we call secondary victims is called vicarious trauma,” she said.” Those experiencing this weren’t directly impacted, but they were there supporting support for affected families.

“Our medical responders, our policemen, our church clergy … they definitely suffer what we call vicarious trauma.”

Whether one experiences trauma directly or vicariously, there isn’t a definitive answer to when the grieving will end. Bedoya said that those affected need all the support possible, because anything can trigger the trauma and bring the experience back.

Roe v. Wade overturned, what does this mean for South Florida?

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned a landmark decision that gave federal protections to women who seek to have an abortion. Many states have so-called "trigger laws" that restricted abortion completely. In some of those states, these laws kicked in immediately.

Monica Skoko, a former nurse at Planned Parenthood in South Florida and an abortion rights activist, said this was a devastating ruling for many who will not be able to access abortion.

“We’re going to see a chilling effect, particularly for low-income folks, Black and brown folks, trying to access abortion,” she said.

She also said that Florida is in a better position than most since abortion is not completely banned in the state. Starting July 1, abortions after 15 weeks will be banned, with no exceptions for rape or incest.

Angela Curatalo, the director of the Archdiocese of Miami’s Respect Life Ministry, presents a different opinion on the ruling. She said the ministry is grateful for the decision, as they strive to protect human life at all stages.

In regards to the 15-week ban, Curatalo said it’s a good start and they hope to see a total ban at some point in the future.

How are inflation and rising costs affecting South Floridians, and groups who mobilize to help those in need?

The cost of gasoline has recently hit an all-time high. That's in addition to the war in Ukraine and widespread supply chain issues that were already driving up costs for everyday people.

The result is that the prices of everyday food items have shot up, along with housing costs, which have risen faster here in South Florida than anywhere else in the nation.

So how are people dealing with the current situation? To get a better idea of how South Florida families are feeling the tightening hold of inflation, WLRN spoke to Danny Agnew and Isaiah Thomas of the Roots Collective, and Paco Veléz, the president of Feeding South Florida.

Feeding South Florida distributes food to citizens from Monroe County up to Palm Beach County. Veléz said more families are coming to them for assistance.

“Families are coming to us a lot more frequently, asking for food assistance, wanting to make sure that they continue to put food on the table,” he said. “We're helping them with federal benefit applications, SNAP benefits, Medicaid, WIC. But those dollars are just not stretching as far as they used to and they're forced to make these difficult decisions.”

The rising prices are affecting not only families, but the organizations as well.

“The rising food costs is affecting the amount of meals we can give out per day,” Thomas said. “But what’s happening, as families run out of their government food assistance program, our numbers are increasing near the end of the month."

He said that they would be feeding about 100 to 105 people at the beginning of the month, but towards the end of the month, that number increases to 260 members of the community daily.

Agnew made clear that the people who need these services are not always houseless or experiencing homelessness. A lot of people that need assistance from the Roots Collective have jobs and families they need to provide for.

“We started this program to fill a void … But now it's getting to the point where we need some governmental help to try to minimize these families and these needs,” he said.

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Natu Tweh is producer of The Florida Roundup and The South Florida Roundup at WLRN.