In Florida, end of FPUC raises fears of homelessness


ORANGE COUNTY, Florida – During the four months his family spent living in their car at the start of the pandemic, Martin Davison, 64, said his legs were so swollen from sitting upright on the driver’s seat that he didn’t recognize them as his own.

What would you like to know

  • Extended federal unemployment benefits end on June 26. Check out our detailed breakdown of changes in unemployment
  • The Davison family have lived in their car in Orlando for four months and fear they will need it again soon – this time during hurricane season
  • For the first time since HUD started doing its Annual Point-in-Time Homelessness Count (PIT), there were more homeless people living in cars / on the streets than homeless people hosted

“Mentally, it looked like they weren’t your feet and legs,” Davison said. “It got scary. No one realizes it, until you’ve been sitting for months and months.

Now living in a hotel near Universal Studios, the Davison family fear they will soon have to return to live in their compact SUV – this time in the height of summer and during hurricane season.

They fear June 26, when Florida will stop paying the $ 300 weekly Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) benefits approved by Congress for the states during the COVID-19 pandemic.

That extra $ 300 has made a huge difference to many struggling Floridians throughout the lingering coronavirus pandemic, said Aaron, Davison’s son, 28.

They are Republicans, but the Davisons vehemently denounce Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ decision to end the FPUC, calling it “callous, indecent and inhumane.”

Republican governors have mistakenly assumed that “the unemployed are all lazy and don’t want to work,” Aaron said, referring to the 25 Republican-led states that have decided to stop paying the FPUC. “I think I would be living proof that this is not the case. The deal.”

“It is not so easy”

Until March 2020, Aaron worked at Universal Studios as a turnstile attendant. He continued to work for several months after his family had moved on to life in the car, closing his eyes as close as possible – sometimes as little as ninety minutes – before his parents dropped him off for work each day. morning.

“(Universal Studios) really became my home when I started living in the car,” Aaron said.

Until the park closed and Aaron was put on leave due to the pandemic, working at Universal helped distract him from his harsh reality: his family was homeless.

They are just one example of more than 50,000 additional homeless Americans homeless since 2016. From 2019 to 2020, people living on the streets or in cars accounted for all of the overall increase in homelessness. -abrisme registered in January 2020, according to a new report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.

Like so many other Americans struggling to afford housing, the Davison family’s financial instability began before the pandemic. They lost their home to the foreclosure in December 2019, said Martin Davison, after he totaled the car he was driving for his old job delivering computer parts to a supply chain.

“We did our best,” said Martin Davison. “But in the end, we knew the inevitable would come.”

After the lockdown, Aaron said he worked hard at Universal, sometimes only having one day off a week. It’s something he says he’s used to after nearly five years being the main breadwinner in the family.

Both parents are disabled – her mother in particular needs help as she suffers from multiple sclerosis and diabetes. For Aaron, being his caregiver is the top priority.

“I am committed to the family,” Aaron said from the passenger seat. Beside him, Martin Davison nodded vigorously in agreement.

“I’m going to take care of them in any form, however I can,” Aaron continued. “And it’s just not that easy… to say, ‘Well, you can just go back to work.’ No, it’s not that easy.

Even as Americans get vaccinated and rates of COVID cases decline, many people still fear returning to work during a global pandemic. Aaron also points out that it is difficult to find a job when you don’t have stable housing.

“You need gas in a car to work. You need food to look for work, ”Aaron said. “And you also have to be able to not only work, but able to work, financially and emotionally.”

For Aaron right now, the thought of leaving his terminally ill mother to fend for herself in the car while he works is unfathomable. He created a GoFundMe account for his family’s housing costs.

A national refocus on housing and homelessness

While the affordable housing shortage in the United States is nothing new, the pandemic has exacerbated the problem, forcing a new focus on the thousands of people living without housing in what is arguably the most powerful country. of the world.

Since President Joe Biden took office in January, his administration has spent billions of dollars on different types of housing assistance programs, including $ 5 billion in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for emergency housing vouchers (EHV). Local social housing authorities distribute these vouchers to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and who need help finding affordable housing.

Orange County has received 66 EHV from ARPA – a “modest number,” according to deputy director of the housing and community development department Nancy Sharifi, but certainly a beneficial resource for households in transition to stable housing .

These 66 EHVs can begin distributing to applicants once the county signs a memorandum of understanding with the local Continuum of Care (CoC), led by the Central Florida Homeless Service Network.

Meanwhile, Aaron says their experience made his family think more critically about homelessness. They say that in the future they want to defend the interests of the homeless.

“It’s a shame that as rich as our country is, we can’t help our own people,” Aaron said. “And it’s also a shame that it took the pandemic to put homelessness and housing back into the discussion.”

Molly Duerig is a member of the Report for America body that covers affordable housing for Spectrum News 13. Report for America is a national, non-profit service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to cover undercover issues., or any other third-party online fundraiser, is not operated by Spectrum Bay News 9 or Spectrum News 13. For more information on how GoFundMe works and its policies, visit

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