TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A story that started out as a heartbreaking look at the widespread housing problem in Tampa Bay now has a happy ending.
Last month, Sandra Pittman called 8 On Your Side. The Tampa Bay grandmother and her grandchildren were stuck in a motel room in Clearwater while searching for affordable housing.
Shortly after 8 On Your Side investigator Mahsa Saeidi shared the family’s story, calls and messages started to come in from viewers who wanted to help.
Thanks to that generosity, Pittman and her family are now living in a rental home.
8 On Your Side cameras were there as Pittman, her son and her four grandchildren toured their new home in Plant City on move-in day.
“I was waiting for this day for so long,” she said. “I thank y’all so much and I appreciate everything.”
When Pittman first contacted 8 On Your Side last month, she said she felt hopeless.
“It’s just hard,” she said at the time.
Sandra qualified for Section 8 housing assistance and had a voucher to help cover rent. Still, she couldn’t find anything affordable.
That meant her 10-year-old grandson Alonzo had to kick off the new school year from a motel room.
“It would make life easier to live in a place for a while,” Alonzo said.
Many in the Tampa Bay community were touched by their story. After it aired, a viewer with a rental property contacted 8 On Your Side. He offered to join the Section 8 program and make the Pittmans’ dreams come true.
“I saw your piece on the news and it kind of touched a heartstring,” said Dave, a good Samaritan who only wanted to be identified by his first name.
Dave dropped off a brand new 65-inch television and an electric lawnmower to the home as well.
“As I was afforded an opportunity when I was young, living with the grandparents, you know – I turned out okay because somebody reached out and helped,” said Dave.
Yet another helping hand was extended by Heather King, a division director from the nonprofit Directions for Living. She delivered a bed for the family and her organization covered move-in costs.
“The housing crisis in our community is real and on fire,” King said.
The Clearwater organization works to solve the housing crisis, one family at a time. At times, it’s personal.
“We have community professionals that are living homeless right now that we’re trying to help navigate through the system,” King said.
The Pittman kids are now settling into their new routine in their new home.
“I like it. It’s nice, it’s clean and I’m glad we get to stay somewhere,” said Alonzo.
Directions for Living helps more than 30,000 people each year. If you’re eligible, they can help you too. You can find more information on the organization’s website.
If you have a story for Investigator Mahsa Saeidi, email MSaeidi@WFLA.com.