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Displaced Puerto Ricans Struggling to Find Housing in Worcester

When Diomara Rivera lost everything in Hurricane Maria, she took her two young children here to Worcester, where she has relatives, in search of a place to live.

Rivera said, “It’s been so hard for me looking for a house for my kids, it’s very hard, up to now I haven’t had an apartment yet, I’m placed in a shelter.”

That’s because Rivera is one of more than 200 people displaced from the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico who have come here to Worcester.

The intake process begins at CENTRO, which is part of a new task force established to try to meet the needs of these refugees.

CENTRO president Juan Gomez said, “People are being creative, government and the private sector are trying to come together to solve this problem, but it’s a problem nonetheless.”

“We have 99.4% of our units occupied,” said Worcester Housing Authority Executive Director Alex Corrales.

So the Worcester Housing Authority has gotten approval from its board of directors to not only put a priority on applicants displaced by the hurricane, but to extend its guest visitor policy from 21 to 45 days.

Corrales said, “So it gives folks a little bit of time to stay with someone while they may be going through the application process.”

Hurricane refugees are also being helped out here at Friendly House.

Friendly House Executive Director Gordon Hargrove said, “Our first step is to try to match up people with host families.”

The organization also has grant money to place people in hotels and they’re hoping to get additional grant money to help those displaced with first and last month’s rent.

Hargrove said, “Hopefully there will be some money as far as the city of Worcester is concerned.”

The task force here in Worcester is meeting regularly to come up with more solutions to this housing crisis.

They expect as the weather gets colder and the recovery efforts drag on, hundreds of more people will be coming here looking for a place to live.

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