MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Long lines formed before dawn at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens and the BB&T Center in Sunrise as hundreds of people waited patiently for their turn to receive emergency food assistance two months after Hurricane Irma.
The assistance, from the “Food for Florida” federal disaster program, is being administered by the Department of Children and Families.
On Tuesday, DCF said more than 19,000 people were processed at Hard Rock Stadium and more than 12,000 at the BB&T Center. Despite the long lines, organizers said things went pretty well.
“It went very smoothly. We were able to manage the lines, the lines moved quickly, and clients got served very quickly,” said DCF’s Gilda Ferradaz.
On Wednesday, applications will only be accepted from people whose last names begin with “G” through “P”. People whose last names begin with “Q” through “Z” will be seen on Thursday. The sites will be open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m daily.
DCF said those planning to apply for aid should preregister here.
Sunrise and Miami Gardens police advise people to avoid the area around the stadium and the BB&T Center if they can because of heavy traffic and congestion.
Yesenai Jimenez Rodriguez said she saw Tuesday’s endless lines and decided to camp out early in front of the stadium so she could be one of the first ones in line and make it to work on time.
Many who stood in line were hoping for the best.
“It was worth the wait. I’ve been here since five this morning, so far so good,” Nova Palmer as she inched closer to the door.
“We’re very grateful, just in time for the holidays, we didn’t think we would get another opportunity but we made it in, we are very happy,” said Elizabeth Penalver.
Chopper 4 overhead found the line of people waiting wrapped the stadium, the traffic similar to a game day and once inside the winding line looking like a theme park.
“How long were you here for,” asked CBS4’s Marybel Rodriguez.
“Well we spent seven blocks but it’s okay, very organized,” said Norma Nande.
Last month, throngs of people lined up at several locations in both counties requesting assistance. One site had to be shut down because of public safety concerns when the hot weather got to be too much for those standing in line. Another one was shut down because it was at capacity.
“You learn every time you do this, you’re dealing with large crowds you learn something,” said Bronwyn Standford, Regional Managing Director of the Department of Children and Family Services.”
Clarian Calderon first attempted to get help last time when the program had a site at Quiet Waters Park in Deerfield Beach
“It was horrible, the lines were really bad, there was people passing out. I was even catching, running out of breath. So I skipped the line and went home because they were even saying they were going to close. There were cars, and people, and no line control,” she said.
DCF says the requirements for benefits include having suffered a loss of food or power, damage to the home or self-employment property, loss of income or other disaster-related expenses.
Also, keep in mind you have to follow the policies of the Hard Rock and BB&T Center when it comes to what you’re allowed to bring while you wait.
“A clear bag, no strollers, of course weapons will be prohibited. We don’t want people bringing in chairs because they won’t be able to get them through the line once they enter the stadium,” said Stanford.
For more information on Hard Rock Stadium policies, click here.
BB&T’s bag and personal item policy will be strictly enforced at this event. Bags or personal items larger than 12 by 12 inches, backpacks, coolers, umbrellas, and chairs are not permitted in the exterior line or inside of the BB&T Center building.
For those going to the BB&T Center, Sunrise police warn drivers not to park at the neighboring Sawgrass Mills Mall because you won’t be able to get in.
“If you plan on parking at the Sawgrass Mills Mall, stay in your car and drive into the parking lot of the BB&T. We’re not going to allow foot traffic crossing the roadway,” said Sunrise police officer Chris Piper.
Once people get inside the process takes just a matter of minutes.
There’s a lot at stake, which has organizers keeping an eye out for fraud. So far, they’ve headed off about $10 million worth.
If anyone’s caught scamming, there are some stiff penalties.
“They could be required to pay that money back and in certain cases could even face criminal prosecution and lifetime ban from receiving benefits in the future,” said Patterson-Hughes.