KENNETH CITY, Fla. – Nearly one week after losing power during Hurricane Irma, residents living in the Avesta Madeira Grove community told 10News they finally felt like someone was paying attention to them.
Many of the low-income residents, some who live in the complex on Section 8 vouchers, lost food during the outage. On Friday, Sept. 16, food showed up from generous neighbors and from the Taco Bus food truck which stopped by later in the evening. On Sunday, several other neighbors stepped up to bring more food, water and ice for residents before power was restored that evening.
But even after all that, some still had questions about why help didn't arrive sooner and who ultimately was responsible for providing it.
The complex provides Section 8 housing, a program that is managed by the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development.
A HUD spokesperson told 10News the federal department does not directly manage facilities like Avesta's, which is a private complex, not a publicly owned housing development.
The local housing authority—in this case, the St. Pete Housing Authority or Pinellas County Housing Authority—provides vouchers, in cooperation with HUD, to people who qualify for low income housing.
St. Pete Housing Authority CEO Tony love told 10News they knew of six families living in the complex under the voucher program.
A manager in the complex's front office declined an on camera interview with 10News, but said staff had gone door to door during the weekend to give out free pizza. The manager said extra bottled water was also available in the office to anyone who wanted it.
Beyond that, the manager said that being a private company meant they felt they had fulfilled all obligations to impacted residents and were at the mercy of Duke Energy which did not restore power until Sunday evening.
Ultimately it is up to those in need of help to apply to receive it from FEMA, a HUD spokesperson told 10News. Applications can be found at DisasterAssistance.gov. Residents can also call their local housing authorities for help.
Love said the St.Pete Housing Authority only received its first call about the situation at Avesta Madeira on Sunday—the day the power was restored.