Homeless at the gates of Disney

Daily Mail

It’s the ‘Most Magical Place on Earth’, where millions of families flock every year to have their dreams spun from fantasy to reality.

But for thousands living in the shadow of Disney World near Kissimmee, Florida, life is far from a fairytale, and more like a nightmare of homelessness and uncertainty.

Along the busy US Route 192 that runs past the direction of the theme park, dozens of brightly-painted motels line the highway and desperate families and single residents who are falling through the cracks.

Tented encampments are springing up nearby, while in historic downtown Kissimmee people are living in their cars or in bus shelters.

Among them are the newly homeless locals, hit by the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic that saw them lose their modest apartments when their finances couldn’t recover from job losses.

Others are newcomers that moved to the Sunshine State believing their lives would improve in an area dominated by Disney’s wealthy economy, only to find rocketing rent prices beyond their reach.

They are young, old, white, black, Latino. Some have worked hard all their long lives and are stunned to find themselves facing life on the street. There is little discrimination in this dilemma.

Within eight miles of the gates to the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s corporate stamp begins to make its mark on US Route 192.

The motels all have their signs encased in identical purple and gold supports, while bus stops feature extravagant shelters with the same Disney color scheme.

They offer basic sanctuary, but for the majority of people it is only temporary. Most motels enforce a two-week maximum stay to avoid any claim of residency. And they are no longer particularly cheap – charging between $1,200 and $1,400 a month.

However, they are still below median asking rents in the Ofrlando-metro area which have risen 57 per cent to an average $2,295, according to apartment listing website Dwellsy.

Opposite Medieval Times – a castle-themed venue featuring dining and displays of jousting on horses – sits Paradise Inn. It’s unlikely to receive many tourists; its major clientele are the desperate or disadvantaged.

Windows are broken, exterior hallways need a coat of paint, laundry appliances are in the open public areas.

Forklift truck operator Demarco Jones, 40, moved into a room there with his five young children and girlfriend Monica Garcia, 32, after losing his two-bedroom apartment in Winter Park, 25 miles away.

‘My hours were cut in Covid and that forced me into debt,’ he told DailyMail.com. ‘I got badly behind with my bills and when my hours returned I had so much to catch up on it was almost impossible.

‘I had to take responsibility. I had a nice apartment, three bedrooms, two bathrooms and I paid $1,300 a month. But I had to leave, no choice. That was two months ago.

‘It was hard to leave but I just had to pack up and go with the five kids,’ Jones added. ‘My youngest is three and my oldest is 12.

‘We caught an Uber and went to one place, but it turned out they didn’t have rooms for us. So we tried some place and got in for a while.

‘But we did a lot of hopping around, most places only let you stay two weeks. But when the manager here saw I had five children he agreed to let us remain longer.

‘This is obviously not how I want to live. It’s not what I want for my kids. My plan is to get out. I’ve got some momentum, I’m going to try for an apartment.’

Along the freeway at a Wawa gas station, 50-year-old Steve Rumph sits sweltering in his beat-up 2006 Lincoln Towncar on a 96F degree day in May.

The car, crammed with Steve’s belongings; shirts on hangers, pillows, other assorted clothes, bags, is now his home.

Rumph told us he is a former marathon runner, has a degree in criminal justice and did a year at law school before leaving for personal reasons. He also suffered from a serious leg injury which makes mobility difficult.

He said he moved back down to Florida from New Hampshire last year with his girlfriend and stayed in the Paradise Inn, paying $1,200 a month.

However, he said a coat containing all his identity documents and $1,600 was stolen from the vehicle when he went to pay for gas at the Wawa where we found him parked around the back.

‘I had no choice. It was live in the car or nothing. I’d lost everything,’ he said, talking with resignation and a sense of acceptance. ‘My girlfriend didn’t want to live in the Lincoln so she ended up going to a homeless camp.

‘I had stayed at the Paradise Inn but I was disgusted with my room. There were cockroaches everywhere, mold on the bed and large stains on the mattress. There were even large gaps under the door where lizards or spiders or anything could come in during the night.

‘They gave me what they called the cheap rate of $1,200. But it was a waste of money. I feel comfortable in my car. It’s a nicer place to be than a motel like that.’

Rumph lives off disability benefits but has also resorted to a drastic way to make ends meet.

‘I’m starting to sell my plasma,’ he said. ‘I get $800 a month for four donations. I hope I can keep going with that.’

In the parking lot of Hart Memorial Central Library in downtown Kissimmee, a battered blue Chevrolet Impala sits under the shade of a tree. One of the wheels is a donut spare. The Chevvy is home to a family of four.

Pics and the rest is here: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10858659/Disney-homelessness.html

One thought on “Homeless at the gates of Disney

  1. Re: ‘I’m starting to sell my plasma. I get $800 a month for four donations. I hope I can keep going with that.”

    Wow, I didn’t know you can make that much or donate that often. Had to do a search: Is it dangerous to keep donating plasma? Found this that lists side effects, and some of them are dangerous:

    https://www.healthline.com/health/donating-plasma-side-effects

    Article says: “You can donate plasma every 28 days, up to 13 times per year.” Yet, they let this guy do it 4 times a month?!! Yeah, they really care about us.

    Damn it!! Look at the desperation they have driven us to. What a pathetic mess. This, while they keep stealing and “donating” our money and resources to everyone and everything but the nation’s people. Good that we are more determined than ever to stop this evil. Quote I came across yesterday:

    “Get a rope! We need to hang our leaders while we still can. By our inaction, we have given them permission to kill us. And if I need to tell you how to respond when you realize someone intends to murder you, then you are of no help to anyone, including yourself.”
    — John Kaminski, 5/29/22

    .

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