Does anyone visiting the Florida Keys remember The Cracked Egg restaurant on Big Pine Key, the island where the Key deer roam? For years, petite Helen Goodiski owned this restaurant and was responsible for the wonderful breakfasts many of you ate. When her partner became too sick to work, she tried but was unable to carry the burden herself and had to close. Her house went into foreclosure, and she lost that, too. For the past 2-1/2 years, Helen lived on Big, paying reduced rent in exchange for caring for the homeowner's parrots, chickens, and dog while keeping the avairy floor clean of fecal matter from the parrots and roaming chickens and food dropped by all of them. When Irma struck, her home under a stilt house was a utility room with a sink, her toilet a camp portapotty I sent to her, and her shower the hose outside in a protected corner of the house. Scraping the aviary floor was backbreaking work, which is why the 50-ish owner never did it much, but Helen, at 67, was required to do it often because the house was infested with cockroaches and the owner's renters were upset. Hoping to earn some money for her future, she started working at Winn Dixie in early 2017, first in the deli and then in seafood, until the pain from standing became unbearable. Getting two days off in a row was rare, so she could never recover from hurting and being tired all the time, not to mention that she lived with no AC. She no longer had the strength to carry on with both jobs - but caring for the birds was necessary, especially since the homeowner had told her, after she spent $2,000 pluging holes in walls and painting the utility room, that she would be there two more years. Everyone wants a nice place to live, and she made it as nice as she could.
Five feet of water took everything Helen owned - her small refrigerator, microwave, coffee pot, electric skillet, an old television, laptop given to her by a friend, all her clothes, and her life's momentos and keepsakes from her foreclosed house. She parked her car at CVS, but it didn't survive the storm surge. She has nothing.
Helen said to me one time, "I never thought I'd be homeless at my age," and for someone who worked hard all her life, being a caregiver, waitressing, and finally working her way up to owning her own business, fate was cruel, but she persevered, was thankful that she had a roof over her head. I could tell the night before, however, that she was sick and the hurricane threat was breaking her spirit, and after the owner got through blaming her for not doing enough to save a some birds which died when the wall of the aviary collapsed, she was really broken. She ended up in the ICU where I located her with the sheriff's office (the owner wouldn't tell me where she was - said Helen was none of my business). The owner has told her she cannot return.
Helen needs help finding permanent housing. Her social security is so small that it is extremely difficult. As well, FEMA has been no help so far, supposedly unable to connect with the landlady to be allowed to examine the damage where Helen lived. Too many barriers for a woman who is just trying to recover. Please help this woman who helped so many with jobs when she ran her restaurant and was generous with people who needed help. She literally has no place to go.