Courtesy of the Miami Herald
Published December 18, 2005
Plastic sheets resembling Saran Wrap line the
ceiling of Gertrude Kinsman's Sunrise Lakes condominium, covering the
patches that fell in during the rainstorms after Hurricane Wilma. Buckets
sit on the floor of the guest bedroom to catch the water that comes in
when it rains.
Hurricane Wilma spared Kinsman, 90, the worst of its
wrath, allowing her to still live in her condo after many of her
neighbor's units were condemned.
The condo association has a contractor scrambling to
make roof repairs on 48 buildings in Sunrise Lakes, and Kinsman has had to
call him four times to find the leak in the roof. It's still a mystery.
But Kinsman says she's not complaining -- and she's not moving.
''There are [many] buildings here,'' Kinsman said.
"You've got to take care of the worst first.''
Kinsman is like many other seniors living in condo
communities in Broward County impacted by the storm. The condos, built to
old and relatively weak building standards, are crumbling. Aging roofs
leak, admitting water deeper into the buildings after each new rain.
When Hurricane Wilma first hit on Oct. 24, scores of
people evacuated from crumbling ceilings and water-logged living rooms.
Now others who were fortunate to not have a totaled building, are waiting
for repairs from over-booked contractors.
Sunrise Lakes and several communities in Lauderdale
Lakes and Lauderhill were among the hardest hit.
Gary Rogers, redevelopment director for the city of
Lauderdale Lakes said he is concerned about residents staying in
''It's a rolling problem,'' Rogers said. "All
the insidious leaks people think are OK now will create even more
problems. And with the water hidden in the buildings, it's generating mold
In Lauderdale Lakes' Hawaiian Gardens, the city
declared 12 of the complex's 44 building unsafe, meaning the city urges
residents to leave.
But the city hasn't forced them to do so.
Utiva Simmons, 61, and her husband Love, 75, live in
a Hawaiian Gardens building that has been declared unsafe by the city.
When the storm hit, Simmons and her husband
evacuated from the second floor condo, living in an American Red Cross
shelter and then with her daughter before returning to her building.
Her daughter didn't have any electricity. At the
shelter, it was hard to put in her husband's feeding tube.
The Simmonses think it's better to live in the
building even though most of their neighbors have fled.
''I hope we're okay here,'' said Utiva Simmons, who
doesn't have insurance and is waiting for Federal Emergency Management
Agency assistance. "I don't have anywhere else to go.''
Dan Paz, 71, lives in the same building as the
Simmonses, and refuses to leave his condo, despite the mold that is
growing in every room.
Even Paz's wife left him to go live with her brother
in Sunrise. The mold aggravated her asthma. The mold is so bad in the
master bathroom that Paz keeps the door closed for fear that the mold
spores will spread.
''I want to stay here as long as I can,'' said Paz.
"I want to watch over everything until they start working on my
Meanwhile, the condo association president wishes
the city would kick people out for health reasons.
''They say there is no jurisdiction to kick people
out,'' said David Barclay, 46, who is living in a friend's home. "But
there are some people living here who shouldn't be. But they say they
don't want to leave.''
Lauderdale Lakes say that there isn't much they can
''We've given warning to people that they should
leave,'' Rogers said. "We are trying to be sensitive to the fact that
some people can't and won't leave.''
Joe Cosi, who oversees housing for Broward County,
says that contractors are overwhelmed with new clients and there is a
shortage of building materials.
FEMA aid is available, as is assistance through the
Meanwhile, back at Sunrise Lakes, Sylvia Benjamin,
93, must live in the front room of her two-bedroom condo. Her bedroom is
waterlogged. Like her neighbor Kinsman, every time it rains, she gets
Benjamin's concerns are not so much with money --
she has insurance -- but to ensure her condo is fixed.
Much of the ceiling in her apartment is plastic.
Every time it rains, water seeps into her condo.
She spends a lot of time mopping up the water that
doesn't make it to the buckets.
Benjamin and her neighbors are sharing a wet vac to
salvage their carpets.
''I'm exhausted from all this mopping,'' said
Benjamin, who uses a walker. "Where is the help?''