Puerto Rican families scrambling to find housing before looming - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Puerto Rican families scrambling to find housing before looming deadline

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(photo MGN-Online) (photo MGN-Online)

 A looming deadline has Puerto Rican evacuees in Western Mass scrambling to find housing.

In less than a week, some families that fled the hurricane ravaged island may have to head back.

"It's really stressful that even my grandmother was in the hospital because all the stress it gave her to look for apartment, said Maryangelique Rojas De Leon.

Maryangelique Rojas De Leon has been staying at Holyoke’s Fairfield Inn ever since Hurricane Maria destroyed their home and finding permanent housing has been a struggle.

"They ask for income $2,000 a month and she doesn't have a job and doesn't have the money to pay it," said Maryangelique, translating for her mother.

Hundreds of families found their way to Massachusetts after the hurricane.

Many evacuees now live in hotels funded through FEMA's transitional shelter assistance program.

For many,  the program ends on February 14.  

Advocacy groups such as Massachusetts Parents United have been hard at work fighting for Puerto Rican families to stay longer.

Community engagement director Kim Rivera says she understands the time and work it takes to rebuild.

She says a lot of these evacuees did have careers back on the island but now we need to help them have access to services that utilize that.

"We need to start helping them go to school, have English as a second language classes," said Rivera. "Even if we get them housing and do nothing else what do you do with them mentally  so we have to do wrap around services, not just hotel or evict them."

Rivera says their organization has contacted numerous politicians to push to expand funding for school and housing that help Puerto Rican families.

Families who file an extension need to meet specific criteria and be able to prove that their home is not fit for occupancy.

That extension is until March 20.

Copyright 2018 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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