CHR Residents Moving Back; One Is Especially Elated

by SC Reporter Wendy McMullen

CHR resident Allison Ward excitedly waits for movers in her restored apartment. SC photo by Wendy McMullen

Nearly two thirds of Community Housing & Resources’ tenants are back in their island homes after Hurricane Ian’s wide destruction in September 2022, and no one could be more elated about being home than eight-year resident of Casa Mariposa Allison Ward.

After spending the past 10 months moving from coast to coast in south Florida, Ward was so eager for her move-in day on Monday, July 10, she started peeking out the blinds two hours before the designated time.

Ward had stayed on the island during the storm and was evacuated by boat to Fort Myers. She was then taken to the Hertz Arena in Estero, where she met many other island residents.

From the arena, Ward managed to hitch a ride to Fort Lauderdale where she got in touch with friends in Miami Beach. They picked her up and invited her to stay with them. Fortunately, there was an unfurnished condo available in the same building and the owner generously offered it to her.

Ward stayed there with just an air mattress and two bridge chairs until mid-January, when The Reverend Anne Kimball, from Saint Michael’s Episcopal Church, invited Ward to stay in her Shell Point home. It was toward the end of March when Ward moved into one of the Unite Florida trailers at Periwinkle Park.

Councilman Dr. Scott Crater and F.I.S.H. Executive Director Maria Espinoza had the trailers placed in Periwinkle Park for those whose homes had been damaged by Ian.

“I am so grateful for those who helped me get back home,” Ward said, adding that despite the damage to her apartment, everything had been completely restored.

But there was a time when it was uncertain if tenants in the CHR program would be able to return. In mid-January, tenants were told their leases were being terminated because it was going to be too much work in remediating the apartments.

“I just cried and cried,” Ward said. “I knew that I couldn’t afford to live on Sanibel unless I had CHR housing. “Anyone who knows me, knows that my son is my heart and Sanibel is my soul.”

“I knew as soon as I came to Sanibel with my son that this is our happy place. This is our heart,” continued Ward, a single mother with a then eight-year-old child. “Some people don’t care where they live. They just need a roof over their head. This was my sanctuary.”

She described her apartment, which overlooks Frannie’s Preserve across from St. Michael’s Church, as beautiful. “I’ve got a 100-acre nature refuge as my next door neighbor,” she exclaimed. “That’s why I love I love this apartment.”

So Ward’s relief was enormous when the Sanibel City Council, which oversees the CHR program, passed an ordinance at its May 2 meeting decreeing that any tenant whose lease was terminated due to a natural or man-made disaster had the right of first refusal on their apartment.

The storm completely destroyed 11 of the 73 units in the program – 10 of which were in Riverview behind 7-Eleven on Periwinkle Way. CHR Interim Executive Director Nicole Decker McHale said the goal is to increase the number of units in the program to 99 because the need is so great, especially for young families on the island.

CHR is the organization which runs the city’s below market rate housing program. McHale was appointed its interim director in May, after former director Melissa Rice resigned. The program has two other employees and an assistant executive administrator is soon to be hired.

To learn more about the CHR organization, visit

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