They wanted to help Key West locals hurt by the COVID-19 crisis, so they dug deep

Gwen Filosa
·3 min read

Scott and Sonja Miller wanted to help people in Key West who are among the hardest hit by the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

So the couple on Friday paid the May rent for 52 residents who call the ocean home.

“We’re blessed to have the resources to do it,” Scott Miller said on Friday. “More importantly, we did it to hopefully inspire others to do so.”

The Millers plunked down $18,594 for all those who live on boats in the city’s mooring field, which is located between Fleming Key and the Navy’s Sigsbee Park Annex, according to the city.

The residents live “on the hook,” as mariners call it, which in the Florida Keys is a common way the working class can afford to live in the increasingly expensive island chain.

“I have a job, I have lots of work,” said Miller, 60, a civil engineer who relocated his firm from Arkansas to Key West about a year ago.

“But this whole town effectively is shut down,” he said. “A lot of people need some help. Why not share? It’s one of the reasons we moved here, that’s the beauty of this place.”

Sonja Miller handles the accounting and secretarial work for Scott Miller Consulting Engineer.

Having vacationed in Key West for the last 15 years, she said they are relatively new to living full-time on the island.

She volunteers with the Star of the Sea Foundation, which provides groceries and meals to the needy across the Florida Keys.

“Not a soul,” Scott Miller said, when asked if he knows any of the residents of the mooring field.

The residents expressed gratitude to the couple.

“It helps my family more than you can imagine,” Brandy Carpenter said Friday. “We have three kids on our floating home and I was worried.”

Amy Adams-Garrett, who also lives on the mooring field, said the Millers are the epitome of the island’s official motto, “One Human Family.”

“I am humbled by the fact that this amazing couple has gone above and beyond to help not just us but this entire community out here. Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Miller.”

In late March, the Millers reached out to Mayor Teri Johnston, looking for a way to help those living in the mooring field by possibly paying any back rent that was owed.

At that time, though, rents were up to date, said city spokeswoman Alyson Crean.

Rents in the mooring field are $20.32 per day or $357.58 monthly.

A Key West couple has paid rent for 52 people who live in the city’s mooring field, located between Fleming Key and the Navy’s Sigsbee Park Annex.
A Key West couple has paid rent for 52 people who live in the city’s mooring field, located between Fleming Key and the Navy’s Sigsbee Park Annex.

Crean said the Millers’ act of kindness during a time when the Keys economy is essentially shut down, with hotels, short-term vacation rentals and nonessential businesses closed to visitors, is an example of the island’s motto.

People have stepped up in Key West to help one another in many ways, Crean said.

Across the island, restaurants, churches and nonprofit agencies are giving out meals and groceries to the needy.

Locals are sewing face masks to raise money for unemployed service industry workers.

On Friday, Monroe County leaders said the Keys won’t reopen to tourists in May.

What does it mean to live ‘on the hook’ in Key West? Let these boaters show you