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Rising Tampa Bay rent costs leaving people homeless

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Rising rent prices are forcing long-time Tampa Bay residents out of their homes.

One of those residents, Joe Vizcarrondo, was a working professional for most of his life. He suffered a stroke in 2021 and can no longer work.

It’s not the way he envisioned this stage of his life.

“I was about to start my own company and then I had the stroke,” Vizcarrando said.

On Friday, he was given an eviction notice by his landlord, even though Hillsborough County social services stepped in to try and help.

“They wouldn’t work with Hillsborough County with the rent supplement,” Vizcarrondo said.

He applied for Social Security Disability benefits, but has been waiting for more than 14 months to have his application approved.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor’s office is looking into the situation, but Vizcarrondo is still waiting for the approval. Without those benefits, he says he can’t even apply for a new place to rent.

“You call up places and they tell you they can’t rent to you because you have no proof of income,” said Vizcarrondo.

He’s living with a friend on a temporary basis.

If things hadn’t changed in another way for him in 2014, he could be living with his adult son. Joe Jr. was in the United States Marines and served multiple combat tours in Iraq.

“He had to drive into Fallujah every day to deliver stuff,” said Vizcarrondo.

He survived Iraq but was killed by a drunk driver when he returned.

“As they were all three coming back, a drunk driver going about 120 miles an hour – after he went through a ditch and ran over a speed limit sign, of all the irony – hit them in the corner,” said Vizcarrondo.

His son, his two friends and the drunk driver were killed.

Officials with Metropolitan Ministries say they are seeing nearly 1,000 cases a month of people like Vizcarrondo who need help finding a place to live because of rapidly-increasing rents.

“Our front line team and – you take the unfortunate situation like Joe’s – and you multiply that by a thousand families a month. It’s critical, they’re not just struggling, they don’t have anywhere to go tomorrow,” said Justine Burke with Metropolitan Ministries.

For Vizcarrondo and many others right now, there are no easy answers.

“Unfortunately today, we don’t have a perfect answer. Every day our team tells us this is the worst they’ve ever seen it,” said Burke.

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