Ninety percent of guests are displaced locals
It’s a good thing 79-year-old Carl Redfern didn’t stay in his Galway Bay trailer in Marathon like he had planned. After Hurricane Irma, he found his home ripped in half and nothing left inside.
Redfern didn’t have a pet carrier and couldn’t take his cat, “Smooch,” to a shelter. And, he wasn’t going to leave his best friend behind. But, just hours before the storm, the night-time security guard at Faro Blanco, Steve Brodeur, who also lived at the park, invited Redfern and Smooch to ride the storm out at the hotel.
“I’m living on borrowed time over here,” he said from room 113 on Monday. The only things he has left are a few bags of clothes and some personal hygiene products in the bathroom, and a kitty litter box on the floor. The rest of his meager belongings are on the front seat of his white Ford Ranger parked in the hotel lot.
Redfern said he’s spent four days at FEMA in Marathon and one at the FEMA “headquarters” in Big Pine Key. “They finally sent an inspector who confirmed the trailer was unlivable,” but Redfern’s housing assistance is still pending.
“We have kind of adopted Carl,” said Faro Blanco’s General Manager Karen Thurman. “Long story short — his trailer was destroyed and he can’t figure out FEMA.”
If his pending status is denied, Thurman said, the hotel would eat the costs along with the others who have made the resort “home” after losing their houses. Right now, hotel guests are about 90 percent FEMA refugees. That assistance is slated to run out on Saturday, Oct. 7, although many are desperately hoping it will be extended.
Among those also displaced is Faro Blanco’s sales manager, April Ross, a single mom of two with a dog, who also lost her trailer. “We went over to help her salvage what she could and another trailer was sitting on top of hers. We couldn’t even find the door,” said Thurman.
Before evacuees returned, Thurman said, truckloads of donated supplies were dropped at the hotel. “My staff didn’t want to take anything, but at some point, we are the victims people wanted to help,” she said.
“They have been a godsend,” Redfern said, referring to Faro Blanco and manager Karen Thurman. “But, I know they are running a business, too.”
Scott Crews from the National Guard of Gainesville set up a Go Fund Me page up for Redfern after seeing him sitting alone in the hotel lobby. When he asked how Redfern weathered the storm, “He perked up and said how lucky he was to be alive, and then told me how his home was cut in half and didn’t know what to do or where to go.” As of Wednesday, donations total $890.
Redfern says he is at the mercy of FEMA. “It’s a process beyond my understanding,” he said. “I just hope they don’t pack me up and ship me to Alaska, because I don’t like the cold.”
Carl Redfern and his cat Smooch have been living at Faro Blanco since riding the storm out at the hotel. He lost his house and all his possessions in the storm. KRISTEN LIVENGOOD/Keys Weekly
“I have patience, and thank goodness Faro Blanco does, too. Or I’d be living in the mangroves right now.” – Carl Redfern, who lost his home to Hurricane Irma.