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Miami nonprofit SMASH making sure vulnerable renters aren't "living under the thumb of these slumlords"

Local nonprofit helping vulnerable Miami renters
Local nonprofit helping vulnerable Miami renters 02:52

MIAMI – One South Florida organization hopes to change the game regarding affordable housing. 

SMASH stands for Struggle for Miami's Affordable and Sustainable Housing.  It's a nonprofit with roots in South Florida to help renters in need.

"It's a great start," said Angela.  "It's a wonderful start."

Angela is a tenant at a house rented out by SMASH in Liberty City.

Before moving in two months ago, Angela had been homeless and jobless for 13 years.

"That's how it felt, like someone sucked the soul out of me," added Angela.

Her soul began to heal when she connected with SMASH Executive Director Adrian Madriz.  The organization gave her a room to rent at the rental home in Liberty City.

Angela shares the space with another tenant, Ero Amias, who identifies as a trans person.

"I needed more community and support," said Amias 

In previous places, Amias suffered abuse from landlords.  Amias says living at home was also not a good long-term mental health option.

"It felt like a dead end," added Amias.  "I would always have to go back to my mother's place.  There are always triggers at my mother's place due to the environment."

Living alone in South Florida's housing market wasn't in the cards financially for Amias. Through SMASH, the rent at this home is $700 a month, and utilities are covered.  All the furniture in the common living spaces was donated.

"This is a great space I enjoy, even with my roommates," said a thankful Amias.

Madriz hopes to help many more. 

He started SMASH in 2015 after stumbling upon a home in South Florida infested with rats and black mold.  He discovered it while working for a different community advocacy group.

"Landlord decided to keep it operating and not do any repairs," said Madriz.  "Conditions you would see in a horror movie.  I'd see them all the time."

The awful conditions inspired Madriz to create the non-profit.

"Wanting to link people to different resources, legal services, different kinds of rental assistance that might have been available, utility assistance, whatever the case was," said Madriz.  "There were all these resources that people didn't know existed.  Needed somebody to let them know."

The vision starts there.  The grand plan is to create Community Land Trusts.  In short, it allows city residents to control their land to provide affordable housing while taking on bad landlords.

"We wanted to make it so that renters no longer had to be living under the thumb of these slumlords," added Madriz.  "The only way to do that is to make renters owners, collectively."

SMASH's first and lone land trust property is in Liberty City.  Soon they'll build a duplex on it. 

Madriz hopes to expand with more rental units and to have at least one land trust property in every commission district in Miami-Dade.

The housing crisis is leaving many desperate for help. That's why CBS News Miami wants to share your stories to show the crisis you're in or how you navigated the system. We will highlight these issues and work to get answers and solutions. Send us an email at

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