John Prince disaster relief crowd says things much smoother Wednesday


During Hurricane Irma, Roberto DeLeon and his family of five lost several items of food when power went out inside their West Palm Beach home.

“We had to borrow close to $400 to buy some more,” said DeLeon, 58.

Now, DeLeon has close to $1,400 in food assistance that should help.

“This is soooo good,” DeLeon said Wednesday from John Prince Memorial Park, west of Lake Worth, after receiving disaster food assistance.

READ: Long lines expected at these three county disaster relief sites

On Tuesday, thousands came to the park, some as early as 2 a.m., and many waited hours in frustration.

But on Wednesday, things improved, according to several event participants.

“It went very well,’” said Kathy Mason, a 58-year-old Stuart resident. “I missed the event in Martin County and they told me to come down here.”

Mason said she waited about two hours in her car and about 30 minutes after getting out.

“I was happy,” she said.

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Mindy Castillo, a security officer helping with traffic control, gave the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office credit.

“There’s so much better control,” she said. “No pedestrians are being let in, only cars today. It was so crazy yesterday.”

The Food for Florida Disaster Food Assistance Program, run by the Department of Children and Families in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was designed for those in Florida who lost food or suffered damage from the storm.

The program is scheduled to run through Saturday. Applications are also being accepted through Saturday at Lake Ida West Park in Delray Beach and Glades Pioneer Park in Belle Glade.

To qualify for the program, applicants must have lived or worked in one of the 48 counties affected by Irma and have experienced at least one impact: Damage or destruction of their home or business; loss of income and disaster-related expenses, such as food loss, home and business repairs, evacuation and temporary shelter expenses. Those currently receiving food stamps are not eligible.

Applicants should pre-apply online and be prepared to provide information and proof of income and employment. A photo ID is required.

So far, DCF said more than 2 million Floridians have received food assistance through the department.

“We remain absolutely committed to helping families affected by Hurricane Irma get back on their feet as quickly as possible,” DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said in a statement.

Widespread fraud plagued DCF’s disaster food stamp program after Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

A Palm Beach Post investigation found there were few safeguards to prevent people from lying about their income or number of household members.

The state caught $428,945 worth of fraud before payments went out in November 2005.

Glynn Simmons, 58, of Lake Worth, said he feels fortunate that his family of four received more than $1,200 in food stamps on Wednesday.

“This whole situation was a little stressful, but it still put a smile on my face,” he said. “I still feel bad for the people who aren’t as fortunate as we are.”



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