Six months after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and much of the Caribbean, there continues to be a need for help, says Ibero American Action League.
Tricia Cruz-Irving, Director of Development and Communications for Ibero, says even months later there are still families coming to Rochester to seek better living conditions.
“We’ve heard a lot of businesses are closing,” she said. “We’re also hearing a lot of people are still without power.”
She and the many community partners at the Resource Center on Thursdays hear these types of things, despite the fact that the capital, San Juan, is bustling and stating life is business as usual.
“In the countryside, things are different,” Cruz-Irving said, highlighting the differences between rural and urban life on the island.
Ibero American Action League is a dual-language resource agency that serves the community through educational programs designed for full families rather than the person in need. Each Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 864 E. Main St. the organization, along with 30 other local agencies, come together to help families from Puerto Rico in a single place. This consolidation of resources makes it easier for families to get the help they need.
The Department of Labor, Rochester Central School District, the Rochester Housing Authority, Monroe County and others have representatives there to help to help families from Puerto Rico quickly adjust to life in Rochester. They assist with resumes, finding housing, enrolling in school and more.
Cruz-Irving said the Resource Center served around 9,000 people when it first opened its doors on Nov. 9 last year, and since then it’s served over 3,000 during its weekly time slots.
Because Rochester has one of the highest rates of Puerto Ricans in the country, many families from the islands are moving here. They’re more likely to have a strong support system and other family members here.
Cruz-Irving said many of these individuals and families are in need of housing, health insurance and education.
“When they come to us we see they feel helpless because they’ve lost everything,” she said. “It makes it so much easier than them having to run around from one place to the other.”
Because of the continued need, Ibero has established a Hurricane Maria Fund that can be donated to online. The money goes to families relocating to Rochester to pay security deposits for new homes, a program Ibero coordinates through landlords directly.
And, for now, the Resource Fair will continue each week as families continue to flee the islands and the devastation for many persists. Cruz-Irving says donations, dependable volunteers and a continued friendly spirit in Rochester toward incoming families is what organizations helping these individuals need right now.
“Continue to be friendly,” she encouraged. “We hear people feel very welcomed and that Rochester has been a very welcoming and accommodating place. We are very appreciative, so continue to be hospital for people from Puerto Rico and anywhere.”