Miami-Dade closed its final Hurricane Irma shelter on Wednesday, officially capping the largest evacuation effort in its history.
The final resident of the sprawling shelter set up inside the Youth Fair complex at Tamiami Park left Wednesday after the county’s homeless agency placed her in a long-term apartment, said Ronald Book, chairman of the board that oversees the agency. He described the county’s last official Irma refugee as a woman who was homeless before the storm, which made her exit from the shelter more complicated.
“We had delivered this person to Chapman” before the storm, Book said, referring to the large homeless shelter in Miami. “She then walked out of Chapman.”
After making her way to western Miami-Dade at the E. Darwin Fuchs Pavilion, the convention space inside the county-owned Youth Fair site, the woman settled into several weeks of shelter life. Book described a “hoarding” problem, with the unidentified woman amassing as many supplies as she could in her corner of the expo center.
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The Youth Fair estimates more than 2,000 people slept there during peak occupancy in the run-up to the storm, which struck South Florida on Sept. 10. “We keep the restrooms and shower areas and other places like that cleaned and stocked,” said Robert Hohenstein, president of the fair. “We help where we’re needed.”
The Youth Fair shelter was the first of four opened by Miami-Dade on Sept. 6, and it was initially the only place people could seek refuge with their pets. Along with dogs, cats, snakes and birds, the Youth Fair provided shelter to at least one monkey, said Alex Muñoz, the county’s director of animal services.
The operation turned the event space into a temporary home during an unprecedented evacuation effort by Miami-Dade. Mayor Carlos Gimenez issued evacuation orders covering 600,000 residents, and eventually the county opened 43 shelters capable of housing about 100,000 people. Roughly 32,000 people ended up taking shelter in the county facilities. By Wednesday the number had dwindled to one.