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'When Irma Was Out Here, This Was Terrible:' Miami Homeless Community Prepares For Storm

Gino Lamborghani Al Pilonminkhilton, who was drawing near the shelter, said he was not aware that a storm was coming.
Gino Lamborghani Al Pilonminkhilton, who was drawing near the shelter, said he was not aware that a storm was coming.

Near the Miami Rescue Mission shelter in Overtown, the homeless community relies on word-of-mouth to know that a hurricane is on its way. 

That could mean the city of Miami’s “green shirts” outreach team, law enforcement or volunteers from nearby shelters are their only warning to seek shelter during a category 4 hurricane like Dorian. 

Allan Brookins, 56, also lived on the streets during Hurricane Irma. 

“A lot of these guys didn’t even know a hurricane was coming,” he said, sun-drying his damp sneakers outside the rescue mission on Friday.

He said he was also helping two homeless women who were trying to pack up their belongings to do laundry before Dorian hits. 

“I had $9, and they needed $7, I gave them $7, they went to wash their stuff, because they’re going to Miami Rescue Mission,” he said. 

When asked about Hurricane Dorian, many of the homeless community near the shelter still didn’t know about it, or what their plans would be. 

For someone like Brookins, he says a proper warning could mean the difference between life and death. 

“This was terrible out here when Irma was out here. This was terrible,” he said. 

“If you tried to weather it out here, you probably would have died. Seriously.” 

Allan Brookins, who is homeless, stands near the Miami Rescue Mission shelter in Overtown on Friday, August 30, 2019.
Credit Lily Oppenheimer / WLRN
Allan Brookins, who is homeless, stands near the Miami Rescue Mission shelter in Overtown on Friday, August 30, 2019.

During Irma, Brookins was inside the Miami Rescue Mission, which currently provides beds, food and necessities for over 335 men. 

Antonio Villasuso, director of the local Miami Rescue Mission shelter, said that both shelter locations in Miami and Broward could serve close to 1,000 people during Hurricane Dorian. 

“Almost every bed is taken. So what we’re taking is overflow of people,” he said. 

“Just opening it up to any human being, you know, just imagine being out there when it rains, imagine being out there with 100 mile per hour winds — you need to find a place to be.” 

Earlier this week, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez told reporters that if there is a significant amount of rainfall from the hurricane, high flooding is still a possibility citywide. If a power outage happens during the storm, Suarez said the city will provide food to the homeless community. 

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