MIAMI (CBSMiami) – For a third day, thousands and thousands of people lined up at half a dozen sites across South Florida to apply for Hurricane Irma assistance from the federal government.
At CB Smith Park in Pembroke Pines and Amelia Earhart Park in Hialeah, the line began to form before dawn ahead of the opening of the sites.
“I’ve been standing in the rain but it’s worth it,” said Terri Sierra. “I’m grateful for this because it will help us out.”
Sierra estimates her family is out $650.
“We had no power for seven days from Saturday to Saturday, we lost all our food,” she said.
Organizers told CBS4’s Carey Codd they’ve processed applications for more than 26,000 households in Broward during the first two days of the event.
That’s households, not people – there are lot more people than that.
In Miami-Dade, Codd was told over the first two days they’ve processed more than 50,000 households.
And the people keep coming.
The amount of people flooding into CB Smith Park Friday led police to shut down entry into the park.
Please be advised all gates to CB Smith park for the FEMA event will be closed until further notice.
— Pembroke Pines PD (@PPinesPD) October 13, 2017
Pembroke Pines wasn’t the only location to temporarily close.
If you’re headed to Central Broward Regional Park for the Fl. Disaster Food Assist. Program, it’s temporarily closed. Check back later.
— Broward Sheriff (@browardsheriff) October 13, 2017
People lined up inside and outside the park for hours.
The Department of Children and Families is coordinating the event on behalf of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
They’re helping people get food benefits because they sustained losses during Hurricane Irma, such as damage to their homes, being out of work or losing a lot of food because they didn’t have power.
Everyone Codd spoke with said it’s been worth the wait to get some much needed money.
“Hurricanes are so aggravating, and it puts you back a little bit and this helps you get back on track,” said applicant Tracie Thomas.
U.B. Gonzalez added, “When you got kids and family, it helps. It helps a lot. I wasn’t expecting this and I’m really glad it happened.”
In order to make the process more efficient, the sites are going on a last name basis for processing.
In Miami-Dade and Broward, only those individuals with last names beginning with K through O will be processed on Friday, and P through Z on Saturday. Sunday is a make up day when anyone can show up.
As of Friday, the Food for Florida disaster relief sites in South Florida are:
C.B. Smith Park
900 N. Flamingo Road, Pembroke Pines
Central Broward Regional Park
3801 W. Sunrise Blvd., Lauderhill
Quiet Waters Park
401 S. Powerline Road, Deerfield Beach
7900 SW 40 Street, Miami
Miami-Dade College North Campus
11380 NW 27th Avenue, Miami
South Dade Government Center
10710 SW 211 Street, Miami
Amelia Earhart Park
451 E 56 Street, Hialeah
To be eligible, residents must show they suffered a loss from the hurricane like damage to their home, were out of work, or lost food when the power went out. A family of four could receive more than $1,000.
People who are already receiving food benefits from another program are not eligible for these benefits. These benefits only cover the time period between September 5 and October 4.
Organizers and recipients say the long lines are evidence of how Hurricane Irma impacted lives and cost people money.
“We understand that many locations are experiencing lines and we appreciate the patience and understanding of the more than 300,000 families we’ve served in this process. We will continue to work around the clock processing applications to minimize wait-times and help get Florida families back on their feet. To help make sure you are able to move through the application process as quickly as possible, DCF asks that Floridians continue to pre-register online, said DCF Secretary Mike Carroll.
Despite the average wait time of 2 to 3 hours, people are grateful when they receive the help they need.
“Although the lines can be long at times, people are very patient and appreciative and when all is said and done we see a lot of smiles and happy faces,” said Paige Patterson-Hughes, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Children and Families, which is administering the benefits on behalf of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “We’ve even gotten a few hugs.”
Organizers estimate more than 250,000 people in Broward will receive benefits and more than 300,000 in Miami-Dade. The program runs through Sunday.
The best advice from organizers is to arrive early, and pre-register online at the DCF website.