More than 28,000 families in Puerto Rico have been able to rehabilitate their homes with voluntary help from The Salvation Army and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which have provided more than $20 million in household items.
Through the Salvation Army’s House to Homes program, more than 80 nonprofits have reached out to families affected by Hurricanes Irma and María.
“The hurricane turned our house upside down and we lost everything; furniture, clothes and household appliances. The Salvation Army provided us with living room furniture, a refrigerator and stove and we are very grateful,” said Juan Carlos Robles-Valentín, resident of Barrio Dagüey Arriba in Añasco.
Considering the continuing need for a long-term, community-wide recovery, staff from FEMA’s Volunteer Agency Liaisons team, or VALs, worked with the Salvation Army and nonprofits to identify opportunities for the benefit of survivors on the island.
The Salvation Army’s long-term recovery centers are where families go for a wide array of social help and assistance, the organization said.
“Our priority is to help families recover successfully. A blend of local, state and federal government assistance as well as nonprofit organizations helps meet this goal and we are proud to be able to facilitate access to the resources offered by these voluntary entities,” said Alex Amparo, Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
VALs channel aid through nonprofit organizations and volunteer groups that work to assist those who need it most. Similarly, the team composed mostly of Puerto Ricans was key in securing venues that were rent-free where Salvation Army personnel could offer their services to people like Gloria Berríos-Gutiérrez from Salinas, the organizations said.
“Receiving help from the Salvation Army Houses to Homes was important for my recovery process. Now I feel a lot of relief, as if a great weight has been lifted from me. I have my home and I have been able to return to it,” added Berríos-Gutiérrez, who received kitchen cabinets, appliances and other home furnishings.
The Salvation Army assists some 23 million people a year in 130 countries and has a presence in 15 centers on the island serving all 78 municipalities. In addition to donating furniture and solar panel systems, people can also find emotional and mental health support at the centers. The nonprofit organization’s mission also supports the local economy.
“This is a group effort, where many of our staff are also survivors. It starts with the local vendors we buy from, as well as the delivery services we use. Our project has impacted recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, and we will continue to serve the most vulnerable,” said Salvation Army Long Term Recovery Project Coordinator, Nicole Roy.
Currently the Salvation Army has representation in Aguadilla, Barceloneta, Barranquitas, Bayamón, Cayey, Loíza, Mayagüez, Orocovis, Peñuelas, Ponce, San Juan, San Sebastián, Utuado, Vieques and Yabucoa.