For Tracey Uerkwitz, what began as a promising new path two years ago was actually the start of a downward spiral.
At the time, Uerkwitz, then 50, was living with her boyfriend, Samuel Staples, and her father in her father’s Charlotte County house. Staples was employed in remodeling and maintenance at Fisherman’s Village in Punta Gorda while Uerkwitz scaled back from her service jobs to tend to a heart condition.
As Uerkwitz’s father set about to sell his home, Staples got an offer to do construction work out near Las Vegas. The couple decided to pick up stakes and head out West, and even get married while in Vegas.
But once they arrived, the pandemic hit, and the construction project shut down.
“We were stuck there for six months,” Uerkwitz said.
The two lived in a camper at the foot of a mountain, holding a small wedding that summer in a park with friends.
Staples worked odd jobs to save up money for their return, which they eventually did in early 2021.
Staples went back to work at his old job while Uerkwitz had a pacemaker installed.
But there was a big problem. They couldn’t find a place to live. In their absence, the housing marketing had exploded, with rents rapidly climbing beyond what they could afford.
“He’s working, but we couldn’t come up with first, last (month’s rent) and the deposit. The prices went up so high,” Uerkwitz said. “We just weren’t getting a break anywhere.”