On December 23rd, just two days before Christmas, Martha Davis awoke to a pounding on her hotel room door. It was the Osceola County Fire Department ordering her and her family out of their room because the hotel was on fire.
Martha, her hearing-impaired husband, twelve year old daughter and nine year old son grabbed everything they could, left their room, and entered into a world of chaos and confusion.
Martha watched family after family scrabble out of their rooms. Families wide-eyed and in shock rushed to the parking lot in the clothes they slept in, carrying as many belongings as they could hold. Flames shot up from the roof and windows of the hotel not far from where Mrs. Davis and her family slept. Soon, they were sent away because the fire was getting worse. That night the Davis family and nearly 200 other people were directed to the Osceola Council on Aging for shelter and support.
The fire had made the hotel uninhabitable. Some people were able to stay with friends or family, but many had nowhere to turn. Like most of the families living at the hotel, the Davis family lived there because they could not afford to save enough money for a deposit for an apartment. Mrs. Davis works full-time as a housekeeper, and her husband receives a small disability check. With two sources of income, the Davis family was able to get by at the hotel, but they could not afford to move an appropriate home for their family. Their story was the story of many families who found themselves homeless that night.
The Osceola Council on Aging and many partnering organizations helped all of the families get back on their feet. The Osceola Council on Aging’s Building Strong Families case managers worked with families to establish suitable housing. A Building Strong Families case manager was able to find an affordable apartment for the Davis family. Building Strong Families assisted with the deposit for the apartment and utilities deposits. The case manager also worked with local charities to obtain furniture and bedding as well as other supplies for their new home.
In addition, the children were able to stay in the school where they attended. Thanks to the Building Strong Families program, supported by the Siemer Institute, this disaster turned into a blessing, and the Davis family, and many others, is well on its way to stability.