Their house was no match for Hurricane Maria, sturdy St. Mary's is now home
[From left, Suzanne Piacentini, HUD CT Field Office Director and HUD lead at the FEMA's Joint Field Office in San Juan; Santos Villegas; Luz Delia Rodríguez; and Michele Smith, HUD MN Field Office Director and member of HUD Disaster Recovery team.]
From left, Suzanne Piacentini, HUD CT Field Office Director and HUD lead at the FEMA's Joint Field Office in San Juan; Santos Villegas; Luz Delia Rodríguez; and Michele Smith, HUD MN Field Office Director and member of HUD Disaster Recovery team.
[FThe home built by Santos Villegas and Luz Delia Rodríguez couldn't withstand Hurricane Maria's force.]
The home built by Santos Villegas and Luz Delia Rodríguez couldn't withstand Hurricane Maria's force.

When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico last September, two elderly residents of Cupey thought they would be safe waiting the hurricane out at their home. Sadly, this was not the case for Luz Delia Rodríguez and Santos Villegas. As the rains and wind pounded their house, a home they built themselves just four years earlier, they moved from room to room as the storm tore through their home, finally settling in the bathroom where they felt they would be the safest. When the roof over their bathroom blew off, they made their way outside to hunker down behind their dryer and then made a run for their truck. When the winds and rain ended they spent the next two days and nights in their truck awaiting help.

Fast forward to January 31 when Luz Delia and Santos made their way to FEMA Disaster Recovery Center # 12 in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. They approached the HUD table, sat down with Minneapolis Field Office Director Michele Smith to discuss their housing needs. After hearing their sad survivor story, she immediately started calling HUD subsidized elderly properties in the area. When she reached St. Mary's Home in Trujillo Alto, she located a vacant one-bedroom unit. Built under HUD's Section 202 program in 2005, St. Mary's is a 42-unit property designed for the elderly. The property manager, Socorro Ojeda couldn't have been more helpful. She met with the couple, assisted them with their paperwork and had them approved and keys in hand in a matter of days. St. Mary's, equipped with a generator, made it through the storm with relatively minor damage and is now a permanent home to Luz and Santos.