Community, Help, and Networking
As Aristotle said so many years ago, "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts", never is this truer then when HUD and our partners work together on behalf of disaster survivors.
Following presidentially declared disasters, staff from all of HUD's program areas come together to staff FEMA's Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) or join their federal and state peers in supporting our local partners in long term recovery planning.
One of these efforts is the coordination of multiple resource fairs throughout the affected communities to bring together not only FEMA and other federal agencies with local and deployed HUD staff but also with our municipal partners, lenders, housing counseling agencies, non-profit partners and others for a day long one stop shop for survivors.
These fairs are helping survivors get the help they need, when they need it and right in their local communities. In Puerto Rico, more than a dozen fairs took place since mid-February 2018 in Comerío, Vega Baja, Guayama, Camuy, Mayagüez, Barceloneta, Fajardo, Ponce, Toa Baja, Utuado, Canóvanas, Caguas, and last upcoming fair for this first round is in San Juan, April 5. Migdalia Murati, HUD lead coordinator for the fairs, highlights: "After a disaster, the needs grow exponentially. The Disaster Recovery Resource Fairs is a collaborative effort between federal, state and local entities; community and non-profit organizations; and the private sector working together to identify solutions for those impacted by Hurricane Maria. These fairs allow HUD, it's staff and our network of partners to creatively combine our skills, knowledge and compassion to help the Puerto Rican community."
Nydia López attended the HUD Disaster Recovery Resource Fair in Guayama on February 22. She was, as many elderly Puerto Ricans, desperately looking for assistance to cover the expenses for medicines and primary health care while balancing the extra costs the hurricane caused her to incur. Nydia is 83 years old and retired, having served over 30 years as a secretary in the Department of Publics Works. Even though she receives a retirement pension, after the Hurricane she was having difficulty paying the higher costs for food, electricity and water service along with her medicines. Representatives of Pathstone Corporation, a HUD approved counseling agency that has attended all the resource fairs in Puerto Rico, reacted immediately to Nydia's needs and, the same day, provided a $200 Emergency Family Assistance grant.
Other help provided at these events required more time, and follow up. On February 15, Jonathan De Jesús and Aleshka Ramos attended the first HUD Disaster Recovery Resource Fair in Comerío. Jonathan was looking for assistance and guidance to correct his application to FEMA. He was frustrated, and without a home for his pregnant wife and their little boy. Hurricane María destroyed their wooden rental home and took all the family's belongings. Housing counselors at the fair assisted Jonathan to submit the additional information he needed to provide; two weeks later he received the approval needed to replace his personal property. He also received guidance from USDA and, on February 27 received a Letter of Priority, which helped secure a safe rental home for Jonathan and his family. PathStone guided them through all the process and, on March 16, provided financial assistance to purchase needed appliances and basic furniture: Refrigerator, range, washer machine, mattresses and beds. PathStone's Training and Employment Department is now helping Jonathan to find a permanent job.