Questions haunt Hurricane Andrew's homeless


MIAMI -- With rain clouds forming outside, the same refrain keeps running through Rachel Fabelo's head like a bad song.

'When are we gonna have a new start? Who's gonna help us? How long is it gonna take? How much longer do we have to put up living like this?' asks Fabelo, 29, who lost her Cutler Ridge home south of Miami in Hurricane Andrew.


She gives a visitor the grand tour of her new, temporary home: a bed- size space open for all to see at the Miami Dade Community College South campus, one of 12 Red Cross shelters operating Saturday in southern Florida.

'Take a seat,' she says, pointing to her only furniture, a cot without a mattress. Her daughters' toy baby dolls are scattered atop the cot, and bags of belongings, five jugs of water, donated bedding and a cooler with melted ice straddle it.

Fabelo remembers the homeless people walking up to her in downtown Miami to ask for donations when she worked there a few years ago. Now, she is as homeless as they are.

'It breaks my heart that I used to give to them,' she says, her dark eyes welling with tears. 'I always said, 'God, I hope I never have to go through that.''


Janeris Fabelo, Rachel's 8-year-old daughter, misses her dog, Chilly, and her bird, Coti, but most of all is scared that 'he' is going to come back. 'He' is Hurricane Andrew.

'I keep thinking how bad it's gonna be when he comes back again,' Janeris says.

Due to give birth in three weeks, 16-year-old Naela Jimenez grew up in Homestead and hoped to raise her child there. Now, the school she attended, the restaurants where she ate, and her home are gone. Her flooded house has no running water, no electricity and only part of a roof.

Her immediately accessible belongings reduced to a gray suitcase filled with three or four sets of clothes, Jimenez is at the Kendall- area shelter counting the days until she gives birth.

'I don't know what I'm gonna do,' says Jimenez, whose husband, Daniel Moreno, was killing time on a basketball court outside. 'I don't want my baby to live like this.'

Life inside her shelter is not all gloomy. On Saturday, the people who live in the corridors were out talking to counselors at Red Cross family assistance centers that opened that day.

Electricity was turned on a few days ago, and the hum of fans cooling the homeless fills the air.


'As the days go by, I'm starting to get closer and closer to see the light,' Rachel Fabelo says. She has become a Red Cross volunteer, washing bathrooms and helping in any way she can 'to keep my mind occupied.'

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