TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Joe Vizcarrondo worked most of his adult life as a manager for senior living centers and never expected to be homeless, but now, he’s worried that may happen very soon.
Vizcarrondo recently suffered a stroke and can’t work.
“It’s impossible, I don’t walk real good, I can’t use my right hand,” Vizcarrondo said.
He had been receiving rental assistance with a program administered by Hillsborough County that used federal funds. Now the apartment building he’s living in was purchased by a new owner that has informed Vizcarrondo they will no longer work with that assistance program.
“It’s been a Godsend with the Hillsborough County relief, but now they won’t even work with the program, this new company,” Vizcarrondo added.
A case manager with Hillsborough County is looking into Vizcarrondo’s situation to see if they can help, but his story is similar to many others.
Metropolitan Ministries averaged about 150 requests a month for rental assistance before the pandemic. That number has since grown tremendously.
“During COVID, that number crept way up to 500 and in the last couple of months we’ve actually been having 900 families, plus, each month contacting us in need of rental assistance,” said Christine Long with Metropolitan Ministries.
Long said many of those people are asking for help for the first time in their lives.
“A lot of folks who have been living in their apartments, paying their rent steadily and all of a sudden the rent in their apartment goes up $500, $600, $700 a month, but their income has not gone up at that same level,” she said.
Long said the need is exceeding the support that is available.
“Average working-class Americans, who’ve been paying their rent and doing their best and holding their families together are now finding themselves in a crisis situation,” said Long.