Irma Shelters Allegedly Only In Wealthy Neighborhoods

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Florida is limiting the availability of shelters to wealthy neighborhoods as Hurricane Irma bears down on the state, according to the Coalition for Racial Justice.

The group alleges that a number of communities, mainly those home to low-income people, immigrants and people of color, have been left without any such facilities, LawNewz reported.

Brittany Williams, who has worked with the coalition on a number of projects, said many communities are between 15 and 20 miles away from Miami-Dade County, where the open shelters are. She added some people would face a 45-minute drive to reach the shelters, if the roads remain open.

"We've had shelters open in our communities in the past, but not this time," Williams told LawNewz. "We don't have anywhere else to go. Historically, the communities that suffer the most went for weeks without electricity. We had water up to our doors, we expected alligators in those waters, and the National Guard wouldn't even enter those areas during prior hurricanes like Andrew and Katrina."

Williams detailed the areas most at risk.

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"Homestead, Leisure City, Goulds, Florida City, Naranja, West Perrine," she added. "These are very vulnerable areas, economically, mostly people of color, immigrant communities, and migrant workers who live in camps directly adjacent to Biscayne Bay. People that live in these areas do not have a shelter. These areas are vulnerable because of their relationship to swamps. All of these areas are on swamplands and floodplains. During Andrew, Homestead and Florida City were completely demolished."

The mayor's office in Miami-Dade County told LawNewz that the "matter is being further reviewed."

"The danger now is that Miami-Dade County's local government is prioritizing rich areas like Miami Beach and South Beach and making sure they have shelters while the [areas mentioned above] don't have a shelter of their own," added Williams. "If you go to their website, you'll see who they're prioritizing. It's areas that are wealthy and upper-income."

Local government officials are not the only ones to come in for criticism. USA Today reported that a 24-pack of bottled water was advertised by a third-party seller on Amazon.com for $99.99 on Sept. 6. The same product was available on Staples.com for $9.99.

After Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency, Florida established an anti-price gouging hotline.

"We have received hundreds of complaints about alleged price gouging since the hotline was activated Sunday," Whitney Ray, a spokesperson for the Florida attorney general's office, told USA Today. "While I do not have a total at this point, I can tell you that many of the complaints reference water, fuel and Amazon.com."

Sources: LawNewz, USA Today / Featured Image: Gage Skidmore/Flickr via Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: Carolyn Allen/Wikimedia Commons, Navy Petty Officer First Class Tim D. Godbee/Wikimedia Commons

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