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Belle Glade, Pahokee fight to find housing solutions as buildings crumble to the ground

The 60,000 residents of Belle Glade, a rural western Palm Beach county community, are struggling  to find affordable, safe housing.

26-year-old Mikeria Evans, a lifelong resident of the area, has been homeless for the better part of four years.

“I never thought I’d have to go through something like this, but unfortunately I’m in this situation, and I’m trying to get out of it,”, Evans told WPTV.

Currently, Evans is staying at a transitional housing owned by the county.  Lake Village at the Glades, which provides temporary shelter for people in need, is the only facility of its kind in Palm Beach.

Those using the temporary housing, work with local housing authorities to try and find a home or rental unit. This is no easy task, however, with the existing buildings and homes falling apart all over the area.

“It’s very hard, everything is moving very slow right now,” said Evans.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay said, “When I go and talk in Washington, and say, ‘I’m from Palm Beach County,’ nobody believes this [type of poverty] is here,”.  She went on to say, “Nobody from the coast really travels out here, so out of sight, out of mind.”

The Joe Lewis apartments near Pahokee are one of the buildings suffering the most from a lack of maintance.

When black bold and leaking sewage were discovered by the county, McKinlay and the county condemed the apartments for public safety.

Fifteen families were displaced and the landlord was fined $35,000.

“The housing here is old,” McKinlay told WPTV. “The families out here are living in poverty, and there’s not a lot of inventory.”

The commisioner also said that there were multiple factors contributing to this problem.  40% of the population is under the poverty line and most of the housing was built before 1979. The population also fluctuates greatly with residents who are seasonal workers, and only live in the area when the fields are active.

To help families affected by this crisis, the location of the abandoned Glade View Elementary school will soon become affordable workforce housing.

Palm Beach County’s Director of Housing and Economic Development, Jonathan Brown, has said that the project is a viable example of measures that can be taken to save the Glades from the housing crisis.