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Father, 5-year-old daughter forced to sleep in car after evacuating from Puerto Rico

Need for housing in Central Florida remains critical

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The need for housing remains desperate as Puerto Rico evacuees leave the island and make their way to Central Florida.

Many of those people have families they can stay with but for some, their planning didn't pan out once they got to Central Florida. 

Felix Martell and his 5-year-old daughter came to Central Florida last Thursday. 

He had made plans to stay with friends when he got here but that didn't work out.

"When I go to her house, she got two more families in her house. One with four babies and the other one with three, so they have six all together. Like 15 people in the house," Martell said. 

It was then on to plan B: sleeping in a car with his daughter. He said the transition has been the hardest on her, even when she doesn't verbally express it. 

"When I take a shower to her. Try to tell her, 'Come on baby, we got to take a shower,' so I do it little by little. We have a small cup and towels, you know, baby wipes. All that stuff. And she says,'It's OK daddy,' We don't have no water or power in Puerto Rico either so it's the same," Martell said.

Marucci Guzman with Latino Leadership is hearing stories like this every day at the center. 

"We would get here at 8:30 and there were people who had been waiting here since 7:30," Guzman said. 

The nonprofit was already busy before Hurricane Maria. 

Now, the need has grown. 

"We had to install nine more phone lines, buy six more computers on top of the 10 that we have now to be able to take the onset of calls to be able to provide services," Guzman said. 

Each day, the center's pantry is stocked and emptied.

The need is there not just with food but everyday living and it's one Guzman and volunteers continue to pour their hours into, especially for families who only want to make the lives of their loved ones better. 

"I know it's hard for her because at night, when we stay in the car so I see in her eyes," Martell said. "It's not a perfect situation but we, we are going to be alright, I think."