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Evacuees again facing homelessness 4 days from housing-assistance deadline

Puerto Ricans must leave FEMA-sponsored hotels on June 30

A group of displaced Puerto Ricans gathers at an Orlando area hotel on Friday, June 22, 2018 to ask Florida Gov. Rick Scott to find a permanent housing solution before federal aid runs out. (Photo: Nadeen Yanes/WKMG)
A group of displaced Puerto Ricans gathers at an Orlando area hotel on Friday, June 22, 2018 to ask Florida Gov. Rick Scott to find a permanent housing solution before federal aid runs out. (Photo: Nadeen Yanes/WKMG)

Puerto Rican families who came to Central Florida because of the conditions in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria once again are pleading with Gov. Rick Scott for help.

The activist group Vamos4PR-Action led protesters on Tuesday in front of Rep. Bob Cortes' office, but Cortes was not there. He left a note on the door saying he was working in collaboration with other state offices.

Families relying on housing assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency's transitional housing program, known as TSA, have to vacate their hotels on June 30 if no other solution is provided. Many of the hundreds of families are part of more vulnerable communities and have medical issues and special-needs children.

Ariana Colon, a mother with a 1-year-old son, said she would have no problem with working and paying for housing herself, but that requirements by landlords earn triple the rent and have excellent credit and a long term job are making finding a home nearly impossible.

"Everything I do, there's always an obstacle," she said. "I don't know what to do. I applied for Section 8 (the housing Choice Voucher Program) and everything is full."

Vamos4PR-Action is calling on government leaders to more forcefully address the housing crisis in Central Florida, and it is also asking for extensions to help the remaining families.

"You're going to see a lot more families in the streets, working people in the streets and some of our most vulnerable survivors in the streets after June 30 if Rick Scott doesn't take action," Denise Diaz, with Vamos4PR, said.

Families said they were told to leave their hotels by Sunday.

FEMA officials released a statement Tuesday reminding evacuees displaced by hurricanes that the agency is not the only resource available.

"Other federal agencies and nonprofits also offer valuable resources that may help survivors move recovery forward," the statement said.

Survivors can refer to an online flyer that describes various sources of disaster help. To read the flyer in English, click here and for Spanish, click here.