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An important step in the recovery process are the teams of catering and other service staff in the Keys to support the first responders and others who are on hand to restore the Keys as quickly as possible. USA TODAY

After evacuating ahead of Hurricane Irma, Kevin McNamara returned to his trailer home on Big Pine Key, Fla., and found a note saying he needed to move out as soon as possible.(Photo: Alan Gomez, USA Today)

BIG PINE KEY, Fla. — As Hurricane Irma bore down as a Category 4 behemoth, Kevin McNamara evacuated his trailer home on this island in the Florida Keys.

The storm passed, but a frantic text message rolled in. There was a letter taped to his door advising McNamara to clear out and find new housing, his sister wrote in the text. Irma had caused massive damage to the Sea Horse RV Park and crews would sweep out the debris and damaged trailers “within the week.”

The only offer of help: the phone number and website for FEMA.

The roughly 50 residents who live in the Sea Horse RV Park remained on edge this weekend, wondering when they would be kicked out of the only homes they could afford on this increasingly-expensive chain of islands.

“I was fuming, man. Everybody panicked,” said McNamara, 52, a carpenter who moved to the Keys from Lowell, Mass., 22 years ago. “I thought, ‘I can’t wait to meet the (person) who wrote it.” 

To the residents, the letter represented the latest affront in what has been a decades-long trend throughout the Keys: expensive hotels, ritzy resorts and fancy homes replacing simple, affordable Keys bungalows.

Patty Neice, 63, who has tended bar for 33 years at Coconut’s Bar & Liquor Store, a Keys fixture that includes a rare drive-through window, said Sea Horse represents one of the last places that working-class people could afford in the Keys. She and her husband pay $525 a month to rent their spot, where they’ve had a trailer for 10 years.

“I’ve learned to share this island with the rich people, they’ve got to learn to share with us,” Neice said. “We deserve the same right to live here as anybody else.”

More: Hurricane Irma takes toll on already limited affordable housing in Florida Keys

More: Irma aftermath: Florida Keys boat captains fear they won’t stay afloat if tourism sinks

More: First post-Hurricane Irma cruise ship docks in Key West

If history is any indicator, the RV park residents have reason to worry.

Keys authorities severely restrict new development. Monroe County’s Rate of Growth Ordinance sets number of housing units allowed . But developers can transfer units they own from island to island: If they remove one home in Big Pine Key, for example, they can build a new one in Key West.

Matthew Strunk bought the Sea Horse RV property in 2014 and eliminated 100 units from the property. He used the credits for those units to build the 100-room Perry Hotel Key West, an upscale, boutique hotel that overlooks a marina and the ocean.

Now the remaining residents fear Strunk and his company, Longstock II LLC, will use Irma to boot them off the property. 

“He’s looking for his excuse to get us out,” said Gregory Scorza, 62, who makes his living taking pictures of Key West tourists posing with his parrots and snakes. “But you’re not supposed to take advantage of people in the middle of a disaster.”

Mike Hartman, the general manager of Strunk’s hotel who was handling the post-storm situation at the RV park, admitted the letter taped onto residents’ homes was misleading and caused undue aggravation to people already struggling to recover.

“We had just come off an intense week. It was written with a fair amount of haste,” Hartman said. “We probably shouldn’t have written it at all.”

Residents of the Sea Horse RV Park on Big Pine Key, Fla., found this letter taped to their homes after Hurricane Irma tore through the Florida Keys on Sept. 10, 2017. (Photo: Alan Gomez, USA Today)

But during an interview on Sunday, Strunk said the underlying problem remains — the trailer park is no longer safe to live, and residents will have to clear out. Strunk’s attorney said the outdated electrical system in the park took even more damage from saltwater flooding from Irma, and said the park now constitutes a “life safety” problem for anyone living there.

Officials from the company spent the week visiting residents at the park and said they tried their best to help. They signed residents up for FEMA assistance and offered them rides to hurricane shelters that remain open nearby.

Strunk said he will offer the Sea Horse park to house FEMA trailers. But, he said, residents will still near to clear out so the Army Corps of Engineers can fix the widespread damage to the property.

In a new letter to the residents on Sunday, the company said ownership it will try to get the residents into new trailers if Sea Horse is chosen as a FEMA site. But Strunk made clear that the park will be closed, and couldn’t say how much longer the residents could remain.

“They don’t have to leave right away,” Strunk said. “The lack of information caused this rush to judgment. We take responsibility for that. We need to find a better way to communicate.”

Angela Garcia eats a donated meal on Big Pine Key, Fla., on Sept. 23, 2017, after her home was damaged by Hurricane Irma. She and her neighbors at the Sea Horse RV Park are being told that the property will be closed and they must find somewhere else to live. (Photo: Alan Gomez, USA Today)

That matters little to residents who say they won’t be able to find a temporary solution.

McNamara, the carpenter, rented a 6-by-6 storage unit to keep his tools safe for now. Where he goes, he has no idea.

He said finding affordable housing anywhere in the Keys is already hard enough. “‘Affordable housing’ around here is a two-bedroom for $2,500,” he said.

And with most properties in the Keys still undergoing repairs following Irma, McNamara said there won’t be anywhere left for him and his neighbors to go.

“It all comes down to greed, doesn’t it?” he said.

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A crew from the Delray Beach Fire Department was checking out some damaged structures on Monday. When they bumped into an exhausted Key Deer! Buzz60

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Despite the devastation all around them, the residents of Big Pine Key are vowing to come together and rebuild so they continue to enjoy the community they love so much. Kelly Jordan, USA TODAY

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The American Red Cross says 22,000 people displaced by Hurricane Irma are in about 200 Red Cross shelters in six states. It says it could take months for some to return home. (Sept. 15) AP

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Talk about trouble in paradise! Thanks to Hurricane Irma, this man’s newly-bought dream home is completely destroyed! USA TODAY

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Many homes along the 120-mile chain of islands are destroyed or are still inaccessible. Video provided by Newsy Newslook

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Get ready for a reality check! Experts say the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma mean higher insurance costs for most Americans. USA TODAY

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Hurricane Irma will hurt boat captains in the Florida Keys for months to come. USA TODAY

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A Royal Caribbean cruise ship made an unscheduled stop in St. Martin on Sept. 10 to deliver supplies and pick up stranded travelers. USA TODAY

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Marathon, Florida was struck hard by the wrath of Hurricane Irma: Palm trees toppled, roofs shredded, boats tossed onto land. With no power, businesses were shuttered and residents are left to swelter under a tropical sun as they wait on aid. (Sept. 13) AP

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Highlights from the “Hand in Hand: A Benefit for Hurricane Relief” telecast. (Sept. 13) AP

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A South Florida nun decided to forego divine intervention and picked up a chainsaw, instead, joining in on the cleanup efforts following a devastating weekend brought on by Hurricane Irma. (Sept. 12) AP

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Drone video shows some of the damage in Key West, Fla., as residents at a food and water drop talk about surviving hurricane Irma. Rodney White, Michael Zamora/The Register

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Drone video shows how one business on Islamorada is trying to clean up and rebuild after hurricane Irma hit the Florida Keys over the weekend. Rodney White, Michael Zamora/The Register

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U.S. Navy crew members prep aid for their support mission to help those badly affected in the Florida Keys by Hurricane Irma. (Sept. 12) AP

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FEMA estimates that Hurricane Irma destroyed about one quarter of the homes in the Florida Keys and damaged most of the others. Keys residents who stayed behind during the storm are now struggling to pick up the pieces. (Sept. 13) AP

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US Marines and Sailors are bringing aid to the US Virgin Islands, under the direction of FEMA. Hurricane Irma struck the Virgin Islands on September 11th. (Sept. 13) AP

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Jamie Foxx, Julianne Moore, Jon Stewart, Bruce Willis on hand for hurricane relief benefit in N.Y. (Sept. 13) AP

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French president Emmanuel Macron visited Caribbean islands devastated in the hurricane. Video provided by Newsy Newslook

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You’d never know a hurricane just blew through the Walt Disney World when the parks opened on Tuesday. USA TODAY

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With Irma having weakened into inland rainstorms, Floridians are beginning a mass migration back to a battered, water-logged state where millions remain without power. (Sept. 12) AP

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FEMA Administrator Brock Long said Tuesday the process of recovering from the damage of Irma will be complex and frustrating and added it may be a while before residents can get back to big parts of the Florida Keys. (Sept. 12) AP

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People throughout Cuba are trying to recover from Hurricane Irma. The storm struck the island over the weekend, killing at least 10 people. Over 100 homes were destroyed in one small coastal town. (Sept. 12) AP

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Residents of a Bonita Springs, Florida neighborhood badly flooded by Hurricane Irma, were busy cleaning up on Monday, including a little girl who went body surfing in flood waters in her front yard. (Sept. 11) AP

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Inside the Edgewater section of Miami, several roofs were ripped off, power lines lay on the ground and a large truck was overturned on its side in the middle of the street. (Sept. 11) AP

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Federal officials urge patience as Florida begins the long process of repairing damage from Hurricane Irma. Video provided by Reuters Newslook

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Hurricane Irma veered slightly right, giving Tampa area officials less to worry about in terms of storm surge from the Gulf of Mexico, but causing slightly more storm damage inland in places like Polk County.  (Sept. 11) AP

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Although Miami was spared a big brunt of Hurricane Irma, mobile home residents here are not breathing a sigh of relief as they return to their now damaged or completely destroyed homes. Colette Luke has more. Video provided by Reuters Newslook

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Florida Gov. Rick Scott said he flew over the Keys Monday and saw a lot of flood damage and boats that had washed ashore. He said there is “devastation” and hopes everyone who stayed behind survived Irma. (Sept. 11) AP