ORLANDO, Fla. – Thousands of Puerto Ricans have relocated to the Orlando area either permanently or temporarily since Hurricane Maria devastated the island in September.
Central Floridians have opened their arms and hearts to evacuees, making resources available to help ensure that the transition to life in the Sunshine State is as smooth as possible.
The help available includes assistance in enrolling in school, relocating businesses from the island to the mainland, bilingual services and support in finding housing and other basic needs.
Below is a list of resources available for Hurricane Maria evacuees in Central Florida. At the bottom of this article, you can also find a list of ways to donate to Puerto Ricans in need.
- Latino Leadership helps evacuees find housing and jobs, offers clothing and a food pantry. The organization also offers a vocational training program. Santiago and Friends, a part of Latino Leadership, is a family center for autism. They are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 8617 E. Colonial Drive, Suite 1200 in Orlando. The phone number is 407-895-0801. For more information about the organization, click here: https://latino-leadership.org/about-us/.
-The Hispanic Office for Local Assistance (HOLA) offers bilingual services and connects Puerto Ricans to the American Red Cross and other local charities. HOLA is open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 595 North Primrose Drive Orlando. An informational hotline is available at 407-246-4310. www.cityoforlando.net/hola
-The Osceola County/Kissimmee Assistance Center hosts representatives from Osceola County Human Services, Osceola County School District, the Section 8 Program and other agencies. The center at 320 Beaumont Ave. in Kissimmee is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It is closed on Sundays. A hotline is available at 407-742-8598. Maria.Osceola.org
- The Multi-Agency Resource Center in Orlando, set up by the Florida Division of Emergency Management, is located at 6490 Hazeltine Drive, Suite 170. It is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Services available include Federal Emergency Management Assistance registration, crisis counseling, employment information and more. www.floridadisaster.org
-The Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration at 15 S. Orlando Ave. in Kissimmee is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Anyone in need can call 407-483-4880
or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For general assistance, call 202-800-3133 or email email@example.com. http://prfaa.pr.gov/
-Rollins College in Winter Park is offering a discounted transfer student program for students enrolled in higher learning institutions in Puerto Rico or the Caribbean who wish to continue their studies. The programs offers those students a flat fee of $8,500 for the spring 2018 semester only that includes tuition, room and board. Rollins.edu
-The University of Central Florida is waiving out-of-state tuition fees for the spring 2018 semester. www.sdes.ucf.edu/puerto-rico-educational-relief/
-Orange County Public Schools, the School District of Osceola County and Seminole County Public Schools are all accepting students from Puerto Rico. For Orange County, visit ocps.net and click on the "newcomers" tab. The School District of Osceola County can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Information from Seminole County Public Schools is available at www.scps.k12.fl.us.
Assistance for businesses locating to Orlando
-Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando (HCCMO) can be contacted at 407-428-5870 or firstname.lastname@example.org. http://hispanicchamber.net/
-Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce of Central Florida (PRCCCF) is available to offer assistance by calling 407-274-9871 or emailing email@example.com. http://prchamber.org/
-Kissimmee/Osceola Chamber of Commerce can be contacted at 407-847-3174 or firstname.lastname@example.org. http://kissimmeechamber.com/
-PROSPERA, an economic development nonprofit organization, is available at 407-428-5872 or email@example.com. http://prosperausa.org/
The organizations listed below all have resources available for displaced Puerto Ricans. Visit each website for more information.
-Heart of Florida United Way
-American Red Cross
-Central Florida Foundation
-Orlando United Assistance Center (OUAC)
-Goodwill Industries of Central Florida
- The Salvation Army
-Hispanic Family Council
-Aspire Health Partners, Inc.
-Working Together Coalition
-Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida
-Feed and Fortify Community Organization Inc.
-One Orlando Alliance
-Coordinadora de Apoyo, Solidaridad y Ayuda (CASA)
How you can help Puerto Ricans in Central Florida
-The Red Cross officials say that the need for blood is constant, and any healthy person is encouraged to donate. Anyone wishing to make a monetary donation can call 1-800-RED CROSS or text the word MARIA to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
-To make donations or volunteer at Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA), call 202-800-3134, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit UnitedforPuertoRico.com.
-Donations of bottled drinking water, non-perishable food, canned milk, garbage bags, toiletries, first aid kits and other items can be dropped off at Coordinadora de Apoyo, Solidaridad y Ayuda (CASA)
at 1602 N. Goldenrod in Orlando or the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) Office at 15 S. Orlando Avenue in Kissimmee.
-Second Harvest Food Bank is accepting donations of non-perishable food and water. The facility is located at 411 Mercy Drive in Orlando. www.feedhopenow.org/disaster