NATURAL DISASTER

Evacuees from Puerto Rico gather in Springfield, Massachusetts, on Thursday, April 19, 2018, facing a housing crisis.
Greg Saulmon / The Republican / MassLive.com/photos

Hurricane Maria evacuees from Puerto Rico won’t be evicted from temporary housing on Friday. A federal program offering assistance will get a funding extension until May 14. 

Evacuees from Puerto Rico and activists gathered in Springfield Thursday.
Christopher Ayala / NEPR

In the wake of an island-wide blackout, evacuees from Puerto Rico living in western Massachusetts gathered Thursday at the Springfield offices of U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey to call for a housing solution. 

Six months after Hurricane Maria, evacuees from Puerto Rico are still looking for affordable places to live. And they’re looking to the government for help, particularly through available public housing, but they’re not getting it.

It’s mid-March and Hartford Public High School teacher Bridget Allison goes over essay-writing tips for her fourth-period class. After a while, she checks in on a group of students who are seated together — a few of the evacuees from Puerto Rico.

Hartford’s hurricane relief center was where evacuees from Puerto Rico could come to get help: help finding housing, jobs, winter clothing -- whatever supplies or services they needed to restart their lives in Connecticut.

The Connecticut Puerto Rican Agenda held a “Rally And Lobby Day for Puerto Rican Families” Wednesday in Hartford. The event was put on at the Capitol to get support for a disaster relief bill proposed in the House of Representatives.

Holyoke Public Schools

Schools districts in Massachusetts that have been educating students recently arrived from Puerto Rico will soon be getting a portion of $15 million in state funding. 

Updated 12:46 p.m. ET

A spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Wednesday that the agency's plan to end its distribution of emergency food and water in Puerto Rico and turn that responsibility over to the Puerto Rican government would not take effect on Jan. 31.

In the days after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, residents of some of the hardest hit rural areas found themselves stranded — cut off from more populated areas by mudslides, crumbled roads and bridges, and toppled trees and power lines. In those early days, the only food and water many of these communities received arrived by helicopter, sent by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Nearly three months after Hurricane Maria, parts of Puerto Rico are showing clear signs of recovery. But in Vieques, a remote island with nearly 9,000 residents eight miles off the main island's coast, recovery is a long way off. There, some live in dingy conditions as they wait for help to rebuild, while others gather what they can to do it themselves.

Gregorio Velazquez Rivera, an 81-year-old who is blind, has left his destroyed home — which is totally unlivable — virtually untouched in the months since the hurricane.

Pages