By Carrie Hunter
When Hurricane Michael ripped through Northwest Florida, it damaged businesses as well as homes. Young people working in the medical industry were particularly affected by job losses. Bay Medical Center was extremely damaged as well as several smaller medical clinics, which in turn decreased jobs and services in the area.
Caitlyn, a young mother with a small child, was working at Bay Medical. She was one of hundreds of people laid off from work. At the same time, she had to move out of a damaged apartment to live with her grandparents. The distinct smell of mold was a concern for her son’s health and both Caitlyn and her son were coughing and experiencing respiratory issues because her landlord refused to fix the storm damage.
Caitlyn was out of work for months and had difficulty finding new employment and a place to live. Her grandparents’ house also had serious damage, so the family lived in a trailer until Caitlyn could find a new apartment.
Nathan, a man in his early 30s, was in a similar situation. He worked in an office scheduling medical appointments, primarily for senior patients. After the storm, many of the patients from the medical group that he worked for had to relocate to other areas.
All of the appointments were cancelled, and the majority of the elderly patients had to leave the area due to damage on their homes. No patients meant no appointments. The office manager informed Nathan that he needed to find new employment. His apartment was also seriously damaged enough to be deemed unlivable. He and his fiancée had to move in with his parents because there was no place available to rent. His fiancée had to commute two and a half hours to work at Barnes and Noble in another city because the local store was damaged.
Workers with construction skills were in high demand after the storm, but many of the professionals that traditionally get paid better than average in Northwest Florida, such as those in the medical industry, were suddenly facing serious employment issues. The other option was working minimum wage jobs at one of the slowly re-opening fast food restaurants that paid significantly less than the jobs these individuals held pre-storm.
Nathan says, “I’m not handy… I’ve never felt so useless.”
Young people in their 20s and 30s who were on their way to a solid middle class lifestyle suddenly found themselves jobless and living with older family members whose own homes were damaged and waiting on repairs from contractors.
Six months after the storm, Caitlyn and Nathan have both found new jobs. Caitlyn is again working in the medical profession, and Nathan has become a professional writer. Caitlyn was able to find a new apartment, but it still had storm damage. Nathan and his fiancée are staying with family until the rent prices in the area return to normal.