Cuban writer struggles with housing in Miami after deportation

Three cats, 16 published books, a mattress on the floor and a computer without a screen. That’s all Cuban writer Ismael Lorenzo has in his little Hialeah room. He is 76 years old and has lived in the United States for 42 years.

Lorenzo is paying $1,100 a month for the room after being kicked out of his old home a week ago.

“They cheated on me,” Lorenzo said amid the dust and noise of construction at the efficiency he found after a frantic race to avoid homelessness in Miami, where room rent could exceed $2,000. He receives $900 in retirement benefits.

Lorenzo had moved in September to a one-bedroom apartment in the back of a duplex, near North Miami. It was more spacious than the room he has now. He could walk to a main street and take free public transport.

He paid $3,300 in total for the first month, the security deposit and the last month. But when he signed the lease, no one told him that the property at 1257 NE 110th Ter. was in foreclosure.

Despite the clogged bathroom plumbing and the rain seeping into the living room and bedroom, Lorenzo said he pays his rent on time each month.

He made the final payment of $1,100 on January 15, with a check payable to the owner, Ireland Joseph, through an intermediary, who also did not tell him that the foreclosure process was over. already advanced in court.

On January 21, a notice came from the court that the property was being repossessed and he would be evicted. A few days later, the police entered the apartment without warning him.

“At my age, I had never experienced such a terrible moment,” said Lorenzo, who was working on the computer of his digital radio program when he said that two officers had arrived, opened the door with a key and stood at his bedroom door. .

“They threw my stuff out. I’m a bit confused,” he said.

In the rush to save some of his belongings and protect his cats, he lost his phone, along with the contacts that help him organize his programs and manage his cultural space, Creatividad Internacional (International Creativity), where he publishes articles on literature and cinema.

His Apple computer screen was also broken. His computer allows him to continue writing books and add a few dollars to his monthly income.

Affordable housing crisis

When he was evicted from his apartment, Lorenzo had to leave one of the two mattresses he doubled up to get to the height necessary to sit comfortably.

“Getting up is very painful. At a certain age you don’t have the same agility anymore and I have a bit of arthritis,” said Lorenzo, who struggled to find the money to move into the new apartment. They still owed him the deposit and the last month’s rent for the duplex.

El Nuevo Herald attempted to contact the owner, Ireland Joseph, with whom Lorenzo made the rental agreement, but the phone number that appears in public records is disconnected.

The foreclosure process against Joseph was initiated by HSBC Bank USA as trustee of Rennaisance Home Equity Loan, and had been ongoing since 2015, according to Miami-Dade Family and Civil Court documents.

After a temporary suspension, foreclosures restarted last year, reaching their highest number since the start of the COVID pandemic in January in 2020.

“I’m almost homeless,” said Lorenzo, who this year saw his pension increased by $40 and his food stamps reduced by the same amount.

“I was getting $160 and now this month I’m getting $119,” said Lorenzo, who decided to go public with his story because that’s the “situation many in Miami are going through, especially older people. who have a limited income.

Before moving into the duplex, the writer had to move quickly in August from the apartment where he lived for several years in North Miami because 12 buildings that occupied an entire city block were sold to a developer to build a new project.

Rent in Miami has risen 34% since 2020, and the affordable housing situation has become a serious problem, to the point that some families are paying $1,100 for a 250 square foot space in Liberty City.

Residents of a Hialeah apartment complex at 1501 W. 42 St. recently staged a protest because the new landlords, real estate company Eco Stone Group, plan to raise the monthly rent by $650 all at once.

The Miami Beach City Commission passed a law in early February requiring landlords to give tenants 60 days notice of rent increases.

Efficiencies Awards

Efficiency prices have also skyrocketed. Four years ago, efficiencies were about $800 a month and already considered expensive by income-struggling Miami residents. Today, you would be lucky to find effectiveness at less than $1,000 per month.

Lorenzo, winner of the prestigious CINTAS prize in the mid-1980s, remains full of energy to continue writing. The former teacher, who taught Spanish in California and New Orleans before retiring, talks about his cats. Felipito, who is 15, has inspired two books, Soy Felipito (I am Felipito) and Felipito busca novia (Felipito is looking for a girlfriend.)

“They’re meditating in bed now,” he said as he waited for a friend who promised him a platform to elevate the mattress.

Lorenzo suffered three heart attacks, the first at age 52. He suffers from diabetes and asthma. But he hasn’t lost his sense of humor.

“Commander Hugo Chávez saved my life,” he said.

It turns out that the writer married a Venezuelan and went to live in her country, until he saw the danger of chavismo and decided to come to Miami. A few days after his return, as he was leaving Publix, he had the first symptoms of a heart attack and he called a friend, photographer Carlos Licea.

And he called 911.

“The only thing that works well in Miami,” he said.

Resources

Ismael Lorenzo can be contacted by email at [email protected]

If you’re in a similar situation, go to Miami-Dade Small Claims Court, where you can file claims worth less than $8,000. An assistant clerk can help you complete and file the application. You will need a lawyer to assist you. Forms to file the lawsuit can be picked up at the Miami-Dade County Courthouse, 73 W. Flagler St.. Call 305-275-1155.

The City of Hialeah has an assistance program for residents who have experienced drastic rent increases. Call 305-863-2970.

This story was originally published February 18, 2022 6:38 a.m.