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Devastated Black Communities In Florida Trying To Find Shelter, Rebuild From Hurricane Ian

Neighbors who had decades of history in places like Naples and Fort Myers must now try to move on from one of the worst ever hurricanes.

Hurricane Ian caused major damage to the Florida gulf coast over the past week and it’s caused most communities to start the process of rebuilding.

That’s particularly the case in Naples where on Friday (September 30), the City Council held a community meeting to discuss the need to “figure out a plan” for residents.

The lack of a real plan, however, angered Vicent Keeys, president of the NAACP in Collier County, who questioned whether they could get help from the county. According to Naples News, he said residents in River Park, a historically Black, low-income community, are in desperate need of assistance.

RELATED: St. Petersburg Begins Recovery Effort After Hurricane Ian

"There are people out here who need help and they need an answer," he said.

Jay Boodheshwar, the City Manager, said he vows to “get people protected.”

"We hear you,” he added. “We hear the community. Our first priority was to protect life.”

During the meeting, the City Council took action that could help city residents and other property owners pick up the pieces from Ian by unanimously agreeing to set up a relief fund, allowing the city to accept outside donations.

"We are getting calls, we want to donate something, we have money," Boodheshwar said.

It isn’t clear how the money would be spent as that will be determined at a later date.

"It hasn't been defined yet," said Monique Barnhart-Tiberio, the city's communications and public outreach manager. "That's a council decision."

In other Florida Black communities stricken by Ian, the story is much the same. In the historically African American Dunbar neighborhood of Fort Myers, people are fearful that aid will not come soon enough.

“No matter how long I've lived in Fort Myers and seen storms, it's been like that. This neighborhood that's full of people of color, always comes last,” resident Lorieann Thurman told USA Today. “The people that have more money, that’s who gets service first,” she said, adding that it makes her feel “they look down upon us, and they are servicing the ones there that can afford generators.”

Much of the power for Fort Myers and other areas of Florida has been restored. An initial 2.1 million people were without power in the immediate aftermath of the storm, but Monday morning, that number was down to 369,000.

However, even with the lights back on, many in the state are left to pick up the pieces of devastated property and businesses. Dunbar residents say they will survive by looking out for each other.

“We can survive off anything,” another resident, Shannon Tolbart told USA Today, noting that she and her relatives will “keep pushing…we all bleed the same thing.”

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