It Takes A Volunteer Village To House Irma Recovery Helpers In The Keys

Mar 1, 2019

After Hurricane Irma slammed the Florida Keys in September of 2017, lots of volunteers came to help with clean up. Almost a year and a half later, there's still work to do repairing homes, and volunteers who want to help.

The challenge has been finding them a place to stay.

"There has not been enough housing for volunteer groups to come down," said Michelle Luckett, executive director of the Monroe County Long Term Recovery Group. "When it's high season here, if you can find a hotel room for under $300, you're doing good."

That's why the group recently purchased two shipping containers that will serve as bunkhouses. Bathroom, shower and kitchen facilities are in separate trailers.

The village is on county-owned land on Big Pine Key.

Luckett said that even though national attention has moved on, many in the Keys are still working on, or waiting for, repairs.

"People are still recovering. That recovery requires labor," she said. "We've got groups that are interested in coming down and really help."

Volunteers can help with work that doesn't require special licenses.

"The more we can bring volunteers in to help the more we can help survivors stretch recovery dollars," Luckett said.

The shipping containers were modified to serve as bunkhouses where volunteers can stay for $20 a night.
Credit Monroe County Long Term Recovery Group.

The two containers house 10 bunks each. And they're on chassis, so they can be hooked up to a truck and moved if there's a hurricane evacuation or they're needed elsewhere in the Keys.

They aren't luxury accomodations, by any means, Luckett said, but they have windows, air conditioning and USB ports for charging phones and other devices.

"Everybody's super-curious about how well it's going to work," she said. "When you walk into the bunkhouses, you're like, 'Oh, this looks like a very long dorm room.'"

The bunks will cost $20 a night - less than a tenth of the average hotel room cost in the Keys.

Luckett said the first group of volunteers will be coming to stay at the new village at the end of the month.