Outside of convention walls, poverty in Tampa runs rampant
Nancy and Lee Marion have been running a manufactured homes community for about seven years now.
"We moved down from Midland Michigan. It just seemed like the economy got worse up there before it did here." Lee Marion said.
And when it did, they say they say they recognized the signs immediately.
"Cost of living going up, people losing jobs, we saw that quite a bit up there before we left and here we had a couple years before that started as much and then we had several residents that went through that," said Nancy Marion.
In a city made up primarily of mobile home communities, the Marions in many ways have a front row seat to what’s been taking place.
"We see more people down-sizing from their big homes, moving into manufactured home communities basically to start over it’s a cheaper affordable way to live. They’re basically getting out of their big expensive homes trying to stay afloat," Marion said.
Located less than 15 miles from downtown Tampa, Thonotosassa has seen the single biggest jump of people living at or below the poverty rate across the entire state of Florida. It is a snapshot of a growing trend nationwide, of the poverty rate in rural and suburban areas growing exponentially.
It’s in a class the Brookings Institution classifies as extreme poverty, jumping from 15 percent to 40 percent between 2000 and 2010.
Tom Kingsley, a senior fellow with the Urban Institute, says the entire sunbelt has been suffering.
"The percentage of all mortgages that were seriously distressed meaning that they were 90 days delinquent or more or in foreclosure, in Austin Texas was about 6 percent and in Miami it was 26 percent.”
Lifetime Thonotasassa resident Darryl Minnoe says jobs here are scarce, and for many here with no access to transportation – this is a portrait of everyday life.
"It’s sad," Minnoe said. "There used to be an animal clinic, there used to be, uh a dry wall construction – gone. I don’t know why."
It is a trend expected to continue in cities across America if serious changes aren’t made, pushing the poor further and further out of the cities and into rural areas with fewer services and opportunities.
But one for now that’s keeping communities like this afloat