ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A woman who survived being tortured as a political prisoner in 1970s communist Cuba has become homeless with four dogs and has been living in a St. Petersburg shopping center parking lot for the past few days.

  • Belkis Ferro, 65, survived being tortured as political prisoner in Cuba
  • Ferro says she has been homeless for 2 years
  • St. Pete couple soliciting the public's help in assisting the woman
  • Interested in helping? Contact retired cop Joe Bross at (727) 543-4814

“She needs help,” said Debbie Bross. “Somebody out there, if they knew what her history was, would probably be willing to help her.”

Residents Debbie and Joe Bross came across the homeless woman, Belkis Ferro, 65, on Wednesday and gave her some food.

Joe is a retired detective from the St. Petersburg Police Department and discovered Ferro’s history while looking at documents that she keeps in her backpack.

“She showed me a court document that had the Cuban torturers’ name and her name on it,” he said. “It was a subpoena, a witness subpoena, for her on this case.”

Ferro testified against former psychiatric nurse Eriberto Mederos, 79, at his federal trial in Miami back in August of 2002. Mederos tortured Ferro, which began when she was 16, by giving her several insulin shots every day to induce comas at the Mazorra psychiatric facility in Havana.

Mederos also admitted to giving electroshock treatments applied to the genitals of prisoners but said he was just following orders and was not a communist.

A jury convicted Mederos of lying to obtain U.S. citizenship. The Cuban torturer died before he could be sentenced. He was facing up 5 years in prison.

Ferro immigrated to Florida in the 1980s. She doesn't speak much English but managed to get across that she has been homeless for about two years.

The former political prisoner said a taxi driver dropped her off at the St. Pete shopping center with her four small dogs and the rest of her belongings.

Ferro said she does not want any help that would force her to be separated from her dogs, which she calls her "life."

"No separation, no,” she said, "For me separation, I dead.”​

Debbie and Joe Bross believe separation is likely if the authorities gets involved, and that's why they're asking for the public's help.

“What we need is someone that has the ability, somebody really benevolent that has maybe property, section 8 housing or something, that would be willing to help this woman," Joe said. "Get her and her little dogs situated somewhere, at least for a while, until other things can be sorted out.”​

If you can help Ferro, contact former detective Joe Bross at (727) 543-4814.