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As the Star Motel Continues to Be Boarded Up, Manager Sarah Russo Asks “Do Our Lives Matter?”

Sarah Russo. Photo: Danielle Prieur

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More resident rooms and the front office at the Star Motel in Kissimmee were boarded up Wednesday. Osceola County says the property is unsafe to live in.

The Star Motel’s front office is boarded up. Photo: Danielle Prieur

Just a handful of the Star Motel’s rooms are still open. Most are covered in plywood, their numbers spray-painted on in neon orange. 

Manager Sarah Russo says her room hasn’t been touched yet, but it’s only a matter of time. And with the front office boarded up, she says they can’t run their business.

“Every bit of our materials to rebuild. All of our paperwork. All of our filing cabinets. Everything. Right now we’re at a loss.”

Rev. Mary Downey says some of the remaining residents are working with her nonprofit The Community Hope Center to find short-term housing at other motels. 

“Even if a family or a household has said in the past that they’re not looking for support from the Hope Center, but they change their mind. They’re welcome to reach out to us and we’ll happily have those conversations. Because again, we’re here to help every family whose experienced homelessness because of what’s happened at the Star.”

Downey says they’ve rehoused 44 families, 8 of which have gone on to find long-term housing in homes or apartments. 

Russo isn’t sure where her family will go if they’re forced to leave. She said she cried today watching two long-term residents’ rooms being boarded up. But she’s planning on staying and fighting for her home.

“Do our lives matter? My question is do our lives matter? Because right now it don’t feel like it.”

Willie’s room gets boarded up again. Photo: Danielle Prieur

There continues to be no homeless shelters and limited affordable housing in Osceola County.

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Danielle Prieur

About Danielle Prieur

Reporter

Danielle Prieur is a general reporter for 90.7 News. She studied journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and interned at 101.9 WDET. She is originally from the metro Detroit area.

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