Stories of Recovery – Puerto Rico Evacuees

Milagros B. is a U.S. Army veteran and single mother of four children, ages 9, 10, 11, and 13. Her family lost all their belongings when Maria hit their home on the eastern side of Puerto Rico and caused the house to partially collapse. Milagros also lost her job at San Juan’s historic Castillo del Moro, a tourist site, which was forced to lay off its employees due to Maria’s damage.

On 12/20/2017, seeking safe housing for her children and employment, the family evacuated to New York City, where they resided in a FEMA hotel until entering the NYC shelter system a few months later. Although Milagros secured a Bronx basement apartment with a Section 8 housing voucher, she needed assistance advocating for an increase of her veteran’s disability benefits until she could secure a full-time job. NYDIS’ Evacuee Services Disaster Case Manager (DCM), Cricely Fuentes, took on her case but progress was challenging when Milagros’ cellphone was shut off due to non-payment.

She had been making small installment payments but fell behind on her bills in June after purchasing basic summer clothes for her growing children. Through Cricely, Milagros applied to the Puerto Rico Unmet Needs Roundtable for emergency assistance to reinstate her phone service. A $545 payment brought her current on her bills and allowed her to continue working with Cricely on a weekly basis. With this specialized help and modest financial assistance, the Milagros family has achieved financially sustainable recovery.

(Picture: Milagros and her children with NYDIS’ DCM Cricely at NYDIS’ offices during our #BackToSchool book bag giveaway for evacuee children on 08/29/2019.)