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The woman who moved Obama & America

February 12, 2009 12:41 IST

Henrietta Hughes, the homeless woman who pleaded for help from United States President Barack Obama at a public rally in Florida, has now been flooded with offers for help from every quarter.

The 60-year-old woman's message to Obama was "my son and I are homeless, and we need immediate help."

"I have an urgent need, unemployment and homelessness, a very small vehicle for my family and I to live in. My son lost his job," Hughes told Obama on Tuesday at a town hall rally in Fort Myers, Florida.

"We became homeless after my son lost his job".

Moved by Hughes plea, the President passed his security guards and across a barrier to give her a big hug and a kiss.

"We are going to do everything we can to help you, but there are a lot of people like you," Obama said.

After the rally, Hughes was swamped by media and offers for help started pouring in for the old lady.

The Fort Myers-Cape Coral area -- in heavily Republican Lee County, which went for GOP presidential nominee John McCain in the 2008 election -- has seen record housing foreclosure rates, the CNN reported.

On Wednesday, the head of the local housing authority, Marcus Goodson, said he met with Hughes. He said he is trying to find her a housing unit with a shorter waiting time and that he has emailed a White House staff member with the update. But it wasn't just officials

reaching out.

Chene Thompson -- the wife of state Rep. Nicholas Thompson, R-Fort Myers -- offered Hughes and her son a house in nearby La Belle rent-free, according to a spokeswoman, and she is interested in taking it.

"Basically, I offered Ms Hughes and her son the opportunity to stay in my home rent-free for as long as they need to," Thompson said.

Hughes will check out the house in the coming days, according to Thompson's office. In the meantime, she has set up shop in the district office where she gave media interviews.

A website,, was featuring video clips of the homeless woman at the rally and information about her plight.

The site hails her as "the face of the economic crisis."

"As a local southwest Florida resident, I have seen countless stories like Henrietta's. I wanted to take this opportunity to promote awareness of our plight on a national level. If you as equally concerned as I am, please bookmark this site and sign up for updates," the owner wrote on the site.

And Fort Myers Mayor Jim Humphrey, a Republican, said Wednesday that his "community has responded" to Hughes' story.

Image: Obama speaks with Henrietta Hughes, who asked him to personally help with her housing situation, during a town hall meeting with an audience in Fort Myers, Florida.
Photograph: Jason Reed/Reuters

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