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Displaced locals and out-of-state workers find shelter in makeshift tent communities


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Since Hurricane Michael, you've probably noticed makeshift tent and RV sites in our area, but do you know who is staying in them and why?


These lots have become communities for people who are displaced and people who are coming here to help with nowhere to stay.

Valerie Heiland is one of many currently living in a makeshift community right next to the Sam's Club on 23rd Street in Panama City.

"We basically came here to work and help," Heiland said.

As a Hurricane Harvey survivor, she knows what it's like to go through something like this.

"Having been through it in Houston, my heart goes out to these locals," Heiland said.

Despite people wanting to help, hotels and campgrounds are hard to come by.

There are some workers from out of state who want to lend a helping hand to our community, but what do you do if there's nowhere to stay? Some people have had to get creative with their accommodations.

"It's really torn up down here," Tommie Terrell, a worker for PeopleReady, said.

Terrell lives in Mississippi, but his home for now is inside a red tent on the lot.

His only company: One friend and his Bible.

A simple tent is an improvement after spending a week living out of a car in a Walmart parking lot.

"Something in my heart just kept telling me to come down here," Terrell said.

The folks living in this lot said their tent community is a mix of people: Some are here to help and some whose homes were destroyed.

They all have one thing in common, they have nowhere else to go.

"There's people with tents and people that don't have tents have tarps, makeshift tents and people that have lost everything," Heiland said.

Although the conditions may be tough, the work doesn't stop.

"We've been working like 70 hours a week and 7 days a week," L.J. Moffett, who worked for LGS Staffing, said.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

"My job is down here to help them try to rebuild," Terrell said.

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