SARASOTA, FL. - Despite our nation often being called the most prosperous country on earth, sadly, millions of Americans are homeless.
In this tough economy, living without is a terrifying idea that more and more families are facing, including here on the Suncoast. ABC 7 shows us one family's struggle to find a home.
Sarasota's Centennial Park is a place to escape the burdens of life. It was also a place where one family ended up after the burdens of life became all they knew. "We were living in our car," says Amber George.
Being homeless was always something that happened to someone else. It’s something Amber and Daniel George never imagined they would be. "Three years ago, we were financially secure, absolutely. No problem, we could get our groceries, pay our bills, and still have money to do with the kids," says Amber.
But after Amber's cancer diagnosis and Daniel's motorcycle accident, the medical bills started to pile up, leaving them in financial ruin and forced to live out of a Ford Excursion. "Our thing was everyday was, you know what, we're going to make. As soon as everyone would wake up, we're going to make it, we're going to make it, we're going to make it, keep focused. That’s what you have to do," says Daniel.
For the couple's two teenaged kids life was even more difficult. "You have five dollars, you go buy a bag of chips and a pop and tell them to share it with each other and that’s how we made it that far," says Daniel.
Eventually, the family found shelter at the Sarasota Salvation Army, where they have now been living for the past two months doing what they can to leave their life of homelessness behind. "It’s not the Hilton. Don’t get me wrong, it's not the Hilton," says Amber. "You get up in the morning, they offer you breakfast, lunch and dinner here. You have chores you have to do while you're here of course. You try to get the chores done."
With millions of American families facing homelessness, experts say the economy is to blame and leaders at the Salvation Army say they haven't seen numbers this bad in almost thirty years. "I can remember a time in the early 80’s late 70’s when we were going through similar conditions, the economy was in very bad shape," says Bryan Pope of the Salvation Army.
Pope says the numbers are staggering. 1 in 7 families on the Suncoast are getting food stamps. Many of whom, like the George’s, never thought they'd be in that position. "We see new people who have never in their lives been in a homeless position, as well as some who've been there a long time."
With the numbers rising, many facing life without a home, don't know what to do. "We didn't know where to go, what to do, because you've never been in that situation before. You don't know who to call," says Amber.
“The resources are limited, and I mean the feeling that they have is an honest one, and there is a basis in fact for it," says Pope.
The George’s found out that many shelters have long waiting lists, but for those facing a similar battle, they say never give up hope. "It's going to be ok. We're going to make it. We'll find something," says Amber.
The George family is continuing to look for a place to call their own we wish them the best with that. If you are watching and know that you too could be facing life without a place to live, here are some links to area organizations that may be able to lend a hand.