When Steve Rosenthal hugs Michael Capponi, it’s an embrace filled with gratitude.
“One unit over, and I’m gone, and I’m gone,” Rosenthal said.
He’s a survivor of the Champlain Towers collapse. Now he’s receiving aid from Capponi’s Global Empowerment Mission. The non-profit group is giving everyone who has lost their homes $1,500 in prepaid credit cards, along with a care package that contains an electric toothbrush, socks, phone chargers, and other basic necessities.
“People need comfort, next three months, peace of mind, have a place to live,” Capponi said.
Now he’s trying now to persuade developers to give up empty units temporarily to house refugees from Champlain Towers.
The Seacoast Suites, a hotel and apartment building at 5101 Collins Avenue in Miami Beach, is already offering housing. The building has 50 fully furnished, two-bedroom apartments available for displaced Champlain towers residents, free of charge for one month. Each apartment can comfortably fit six people.
“At least, you know, while they figure out what their next steps are they can stay with us,” said Melissa Meruelo, general manager of the Sea Coast Suites.
Philanthropist Orlando Bravo, who founded the Thoma Bravo private equity firm and just moved to Miami from San Francisco a few months ago, donated $250,000 to SupportSurfside.org and he did it with a message today.
“We are so sorry about what happened and what you’re going through and know that the entire community, including new ones like us, we’re thinking of you and we have your back,” Bravo said.
They’ve got your back, but survivors like Rosenthal have little more than the clothes on their backs.
“I heard what I thought was the loudest thunderclap times a hundred that I ever heard in my life, about five seconds later, the bed shook and the room shook,” Rosenthal said.
He was asleep in a corner unit when his world changed. The apartment next door crumbled to the ground.
“I run to the hallway, cloud of dust slams into me, I look and the ceiling’s down, the concrete, cement, people were yelling help me, get me out, help me,” Rosenthal said.
Firefighters rescued him from his fourth-floor balcony.
Now Rosenthal has a new perspective.
Those disasters that always seem to happen far away can sometimes strike much, much closer to home, and the volunteers and the generosity from strangers makes all the difference.
“And they say the community got them through and they say the neighbors have helped everybody, and you see it on TV, and I never really, got it but I didn’t get it, I got it now, I totally understand how important it was for your friends to acknowledge, to say how we love you and we’re happy you made it out alive,” Rosenthal said.
As soon as he gets back on his feet, Rosenthal said he’ll be the first one donating to help the victims in any disaster, anywhere in the world.