The Atlantic Hurricane season starts June 1. That means people have likely begun begging you to get your hurricane emergency plan in order and not wait until the last minute to stock up on water, canned food and other supplies (including us).
But a lot of people in South Florida can’t afford to do that.
Eugene Johnson, for example, was living in an affordable housing complex in Miami when we interviewed him three days before Hurricane Irma made landfall in 2017.
“I’m on fixed income,” Johnson said at the time. “This hit me out of the blue. I had to pay my rent, my light bill and stuff like that.”
While most South Floridians were stripping hardware and grocery store shelves bare of bottled water and plywood, Johnson prepared to weather the storm with only two loaves of bread and a few batteries for his flashlight.
Before Hurricane Irma struck, a group of non-profits and community activists got together to find ways to help low-income South Floridians like Johnson prepare for storms. For months afterwards, public workshops were held to craft emergency plans for vulnerable neighborhoods. So nearly two years after the storm, what progress has been made?
"After these workshops, we were able to make our CEOCs (Community Emergency Operations Centers) more sustainable," said Nancy Metayer, Climate Justice Program Manager for New Florida Majority. The organization advocates for impoverished communities.
The CEOCs function as command centers where supplies like water, ice, canned food and grills are held. New Florida Majority -- with the help of other non-profits including the Miami Climate Alliance and the CLEO Institute -- were able to establish "hubs" in low-income neighborhoods in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, where people can receive hurricane supplies free of charge. For now, there are two in South Florida: in Dania Beach and Liberty City.
No public funding is being used to fund the CEOCs and hubs, according to Metayer. Instead, the sites were established with the help of donations and with a grant from the non-profit Miami Foundation.
Access to and affordability of hurricane supplies aren't the only issues. People who rely on public transportation have no easy way of getting hurricane supplies from the stores to their home -- or to evacuate, if a storm becomes threatening enough. Metayer acknowledges that non-profits and individual municipalities need to have a "larger conversation" about how to solve the transportation problem, particularly when a mandatory evacuation order comes through.
"We need to include Miami-Dade government, we need to include Broward government to insure that our public transportation systems are reliable and can insure that these communities have access to them if they would like to evacuate," Metayer said.
If you or someone you know needs hurricane supplies but can't afford them, please call New Florida Majority at 305-754-0118. The organization is also accepting donations.
And for more information on hurricane preparation, please click here.