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Finding home a struggle for low-income Bradenton siblings

April 23, 2017 GMT

MANATEE, Fla. (AP) — DeWayne and Rosalie Reinhart have already started packing up their two-bedroom home in Bradenton. They don’t have to be out of their home for a couple more weeks, but the brother and sister had to get started since they won’t be able to take all their belongings with them.

The siblings relied on their disability checks, but DeWayne Reinhart lost his $857 a month income last September after a doctor said he no longer had congestive heart failure. And they could no longer afford their $725-a-month rent.

With 69-year-old Rosalie Reinhart’s $755 a month from disability, as well as Social Security for the two to live on, they turned to the Manatee County community to help until they could get back on their feet. They received help from a couple community agencies with rent through January, but the agencies were unable to continue to help due to limited resources.

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“We were just making it,” Rosalie Reinhart said. “We were being careful on what we were spending.”

DeWayne Reinhart, 49, added: “All the bills were paid. We just had very little money left, but yet we were going to the pantries and stuff.”

While it is unknown just how many people in Manatee County are in similar situations, the Reinharts illustrate the difficulty faced by low-income residents in trying to find affordable, safe housing in Manatee County.

The Reinharts always paid the rent on time until DeWayne lost his disability, said Paul Spenceley, who is the property manager of the home the Reinharts currently live in.

“They were fine,” Spenceley said. “I didn’t have the heart to put them on the street.”

When the lease ended in March, it was not renewed, but they have been able to stay in the house until they found a new place to live.

“Demand is unbelievable, but there aren’t a lot of rentals out there,” Spenceley said. “It’s not that they didn’t want to pay. They had a situation that they couldn’t do anything about.”

Up until the week of April 16, the two were struggling to find a place they could afford in Manatee County that had openings. With the help of Manatee County Commission, they will be moving into a one-bedroom apartment at Robin’s Apartments, which was the former Knight’s Inn on First Street, for $625 a month.

“It’s going to take most of my money,” Rosalie Reinhart said.

After DeWayne Reinhart, who has asthma, congestive heart failure, sleep apnea and diabetes, lost his disability checks last fall, the siblings began seeking help from different churches and agencies, but didn’t have much luck.

“They don’t have the money to help us,” Rosalie Reinhart said. “We are used to being very frugal with our money, so we are very tight with what we buy. And it’s been several years since I’ve bought myself new clothes.”

In September, the last month DeWayne Reinhart received his disability check, Turning Points paid the rent. But once he lost the income, the agency could no longer help the siblings.

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“They say it’s the regulations that they can’t help us,” he said.

While not familiar with the Reinharts specifically, Adell Erozer, executive director of Turning Points, said it is a requirement of every funding source they have that it is going toward people who are sustainable.

“Once they don’t have sustainability, we can’t just keep giving them money,” Erozer said. “We get so many requests, especially for rent and utility assistance. We can’t just hand out money to people. We have to be good stewards of the resources that we have. People who can’t show they are sustainable, we can’t help them.”

The Reinharts’ situation and the inability for Turning Points continuing to help is “very indicative of this whole problem,” Erozer said.

“It is very indicative of the things that happen especially, we are finding, with the elder population,” she said. “They just have limited resources. Once those resources run out, there are very few options to help them. There are no safety nets for those people. We don’t have enough money to do that for everybody. Just limited resources.”

Centerstone paid four months’ rent for the Reinharts but once that stopped in January, they were left with the inevitable — they had to find new place to live.

“People like us fall through the cracks,” DeWayne Reinhart said. “They should have places that we can afford. Nobody thinks about the poor people.”

As they prepare to move into Robin’s Apartments, the Reinharts will have to make difficult choices about what to take with them and what to leave behind. They know they will leave behind their washer and dryer as well as a lot of the furniture.

“It’s going to be so crowded,” DeWayne Reinhart said. “There is not even a kitchen sink, a stove or an oven. Just a microwave and a refrigerator.”

DeWayne Reinhart has been told he will eventually get the disability checks back, so for the siblings, Robin’s Apartments will be their home until they get back on their feet.

But even still, they know it will be difficult to find an affordable, safe place to live in Manatee County once they do get the additional income.

“There isn’t any,” Rosalie Reinhart said.

The Reinharts are on a waiting list for a two-bedroom apartment with the Bradenton Housing Authority, but there are no vacancies.

“They said it may be a couple years before they can get us in,” Rosalie Reinhart said.

The Reinharts have also gone to other low-income housing in the county such as Palmetto Villas, but there are no openings.

“They say it will be maybe July or August before they might get an opening,” DeWayne Reinhart said.

Rosalie Reinhart added: “But they couldn’t promise they would have an opening.”

They are also backlogged on Section 8 Housing Choice and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development vouchers, DeWayne Reinhart said, adding that they have applied to receive vouchers.

“Nobody can get on that stuff,” he said. “It’s a crisis around the United States.”

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Information from Bradenton Herald, www.bradenton.com

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Information from: The Bradenton (Fla.) Herald , http://www.bradenton.com