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The faces of residents of the Civic Towers in Allapattah who had been ordered to evacuate due to Hurricane Irma reflected a different expression on Wednesday after they were informed that at least 50 of them will moved off the street and into hotels.
The decision comes after more than a week of back-and-forth exchanges between building owners and community leaders on what to do about some 80 tenants who had been sleeping in their cars and beneath tarps at the complex parking lot and adjacent streets.
José Alvarez, who works for the Miami Mayor’s Office, arrived at the building Wednesday morning to deliver the news tenants had been waiting for: at least 50 will be sleeping in hotel rooms as of Wednesday night. The remaining tenants still in limbo will be relocated as soon as possible.
“I’m delighted,” said Gladys Pantoja, 71, who slept in the car with her husband for 10 nights. “When we go to the hotel, it’s going to feel like I’m in the (Donald) Trump towers.”
Like Pantoja, many of the Civic Towers residents are seniors who suffer from various ailments including diabetes, arthritis and mental disorders.
Tenants left their apartments between Sept. 7-8 with some clothing and medicine following mandatory evacuation orders for fear that Hurricane Irma would further damage the already precarious Section 8 apartment buildings on the 1800 block of Northwest 15th Avenue, which were purchased by Redwood Housing Partners in February for $ 45 million and have since been under reconstruction.
When residents tried to return to their homes, they were not allowed to go enter because the buildings were deemed unsafe.
Alyn Fernandez, who works with Sen. Marco Rubio, said authorities gave relocation priority to those who had slept outdoors the longest, as well as the sick and the elderly.
“We won the battle, if we had not planted ourselves out here, nothing would have happened,” said Leonor Gallardo, 67.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.