ORLANDO, FL — Hundreds of Puerto Rican families currently living in Central Florida who were forced to abandon their island homes after Hurricane Maria will effectively be left homeless following a ruling from a U.S. Federal District Court in Massachusetts last Thursday which denied a request to extend the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Transitional Shelter Assistance Program for these families. Families currently living in hotels will have to move out on September 14, once the program ends. The Abrazo Boricua coalition will be taking action in the coming days to assist families with finding alternative housing.
“We’re devastated that hundreds of families will be left homeless by FEMA, many of whom are elder, have health conditions or are single mothers. The federal government has abandoned Hurricane Maria survivors and the state of Florida is doing little to nothing to help our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters who came to Central Florida to rebuild their lives and give their family a fresh beginning,” said Betsy Franceschini from Hispanic Federation.
The order issued by Judge Timothy Hillman gives Puerto Rican evacuees two weeks to find housing alternatives with a final move-out date of Sept. 14.
“I strongly urge the parties to work together to find temporary housing, or other assistance to the plaintiffs and other members of the class prior to that date,” Hillman said in the order.
“FEMA’s callous posture has dealt a harsh blow to the scores of families left in hotels who are the most vulnerable, with the least resources and fewest options. As we have been doing for months, we will continue to keep families informed and help them organize. We are glad to count on strong, committed partners to work on creative long-term solutions to help displaced families secure the resources they need to resettle into a new, productive life,” said Father José Rodríguez, VAMOS4PR steering committee member.