How can you help?
Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico last September, spiraling the island into a cycle of endless devastation overnight. Even today, it is still suffering the effects of the catastrophic cyclone's furious winds and rains.
One of the most devastating consequences the hurricane? 6% of Puerto Rico's population left after Maria, leaving the island with few to rebuild it. But Maria's destruction has asphyxiated more than just the island's resources resources. Philadelphia has received a good chunk of the evacuee influx coming into the United States, with over 900 displaced families and 2,000 individuals having already arrived.
These evacuees are ready to begin their lives here and contribute to their new home. However, they left a humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico and found themselves in another in Pennsylvania. The local, state, and federal systems in place to support them have failed to meet the needs of Maria's survivors. To make matters worse, Puerto Ricans are already amongst the poorest demographic in the city.
Home to over 135,000 of us, Philadelphia holds a unique position, as well as a responsibility, to create a new future for Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans in Philadelphia.
It's up to Philadelphians to fill in the gaping holes of the city's relief response. What can you do for the displaced evacuees? Think critically about your skills, talents, and resources. Here's a list of ideas and resources to get you started.
If you are a landlord, forgo first/last deposit and security fees for Puerto Rican evacuees looking for housing. Reach out to the Long Term Recovery Committee if you are interested in renting out to displaced Puerto Ricans.
Jobs and Employment
Volunteer some of your Saturday mornings to the pop up center helping evacuees manage their FEMA cases at the Lillian Marrero branch of the Free Library.
Donate to this GoFundme for Puerto Rican Hurricane Maria evacuees, so evacuees can travel around the city to find work.
childcare and youth services
Many of the evacuees are young single parents, often mothers, who are looking for jobs while also handling the challenges of single parenting. Offer free or reduced-cost daycare for their children.
Education and language learning
Offer classes to evacuees at the Lillian Marrero branch of the Free Library.
Many universities around the country have forgone tuition costs for displaced Puerto Rican college students. Write to local schools ‐ like Penn, Temple, and Drexel ‐ to do the same.
Are you a restaurant or grocery store owner? Offer free meals and supplies to hurricane evacuees. You can contact the Long Term Recovery Committee.
The Mazzoni Center has offered to provide pro bono services to Maria’s LGBTQ+ evacuees. Donate here to support their work in Philadelphia, or to sustain their efforts financing LGBTQ organizations on the island.
Advocate and organize
Attend any demonstrations called by organizers and evacuees through Voces del Barrio and allies. These actions have been successful in extending transitional housing.
Make phone call demanding a fully funded “housing first” plan for all evacuee families to Mayor Jim Kenney’s office at 215-686-2186, Governor Tom Wolf’s office at 717-787-2500, and the HUD Regional Office at 215-656-3445.
Social media has become a prime tool to get important news disseminated about what's going on with evacuees in Philadelphia and across the United States. Puerto Ricans all over the world have been regularly updating their social networks. Share and create content that contains relevant news or information about the situation to amplify the audiences receiving information both on the island and the newly minted diaspora These posts also keeps Puerto Rico present on people’s feeds.
**Adapted from Inquirer piece published May 3, 2018 and a Philadelphia Citizen piece published October 17, 2017. Both written by Syra Ortiz-Blanes**