South Florida

Advocates demand state help Puerto Rican evacuees with housing as FEMA aid runs out

Left to right, Kionne McGhee, Representative, Robert Asencio, Paul Carl Velez, Chief Executive Officer at Borinquen Medical Center, Luis DeRosa, President of the Puerto Rican Chamber Commerce and Actor, Osvaldo Rios, during a press conference with private sector and community organizations requesting immediate help for displaced Puerto Rican and US Virgin Island families, at the Borinquen Medical Center in Miami on Thursday, July 19, 2018.
Left to right, Kionne McGhee, Representative, Robert Asencio, Paul Carl Velez, Chief Executive Officer at Borinquen Medical Center, Luis DeRosa, President of the Puerto Rican Chamber Commerce and Actor, Osvaldo Rios, during a press conference with private sector and community organizations requesting immediate help for displaced Puerto Rican and US Virgin Island families, at the Borinquen Medical Center in Miami on Thursday, July 19, 2018. rkoltun@miamiherald.com

Local Puerto Rican organizations and state representatives have demanded that Gov. Rick Scott offer affordable housing solutions to island residents driven to Florida by Hurricane Maria. On Monday, the program that has provided housing to hurricane refugees will expire.

“It’s the governor, it’s the legislators, who hold the key to opening up the resources that are available to affordable housing,” said Luis DeRosa, president of the South Florida Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce, during a press conference Thursday.

Many evacuees “remain in limbo due to government officials’ inability to provide a housing solution for displaced families,” according to the Puerto Rican Chamber.

This program has been extended three times by FEMA and two more times by court order.

During Thursday’s press conference, community based organizations, members of the South Florida Puerto Rican community and elected officials, noting Monday’s deadline, demanded the state government act.

About 1,700 evacuees have benefited from this program. In Florida, 323 families — 879 Puerto Ricans — will have to look for permanent housing or face homelessness next Monday.

The solution, the elected officials said, would be to get money from the Sadowski trust fund, a state fund for affordable housing.

“If they really want to fix this issue, Rick Scott and his allies would gather the political courage to do what’s right,” said state Rep. Kionne McGhee of Miami.

Puerto Rican hurricane refugees are collateral damage of Florida’s affordable housing crisis, said state Rep. Robert Asencio, who chairs the Miami Dade Delegation’s Puerto Rico/Caribbean Hurricane Relief & Transition Committee.

“We’re very concerned not only for the Puerto Ricans and the Virgin Island folks, but for all Floridians who for whatever reason cannot afford a safe haven in their hometown,” said DeRosa.

This article has been corrected to reflect that the program that has provided housing to hurricane refugees has been extended three times by FEMA and two more times by court order.

Follow Marta Oliver Craviotto on Twitter: @MartaOCraviotto

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