H 66° L 45°
  • clear-night
    Current Conditions
    Sunny. H 66° L 45°
  • clear-day
    Sunny. H 66° L 45°
  • clear-day
    Sunny. H 67° L 46°

The latest top stories

00:00 | 00:00


The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00


The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

Puerto Ricans still stranded in hotels 6 months after storm

Puerto Ricans still stranded in hotels 6 months after storm

Puerto Ricans still stranded in hotels 6 months after storm
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Carlos Giusti
In this Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018 photo, Jesenia Flores holds her son Jose, both of Aibonito, Puerto Rico, as they wait to enter her mother-in-law's hotel room, in Dedham, Mass. Nearly six months after Hurricane Maria, thousands of Puerto Ricans are still staying in hotels. It's frustrating "to be cooped up here without knowing what will happen to us," the 19-year-old mother said. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Puerto Ricans still stranded in hotels 6 months after storm

From the lobby of a hotel on the outskirts of Boston, Jesenia Flores fills out an online job application, hoping to find work that will get her small family back to normal for the first time since Hurricane Maria flooded their home in Puerto Rico.

The hotel along the interstate has been a refuge for her and other Puerto Rican families, but it's frustrating "to be cooped up here without knowing what will happen to us," the 19-year-old mother said as her 15-month-old son squirmed and cried in her lap.

Danaliz Pujol is staying in a hotel, too, near Orlando, Florida. She and her husband are trying to find an affordable apartment to replace the one in Puerto Rico that was damaged in the storm and then rented to someone else after they fled to the mainland. She looks every day, "but there's nothing," she said.

And then there is Carmen Acosta, who longs to go home from the hotel where she has been living in Puerto Rico with 40 families displaced by the storm. She received $4,000 from the federal government to repair her nearby house, but the work has been slow because it includes removing black mold that quickly spread in the tropical heat.

Nearly six months after the storm, almost 10,000 Puerto Ricans scattered across 37 states and the U.S. territory still receive temporary housing assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. That help has been renewed repeatedly, but it's now scheduled to end for everyone March 20. Without financial support, they will have nowhere to go, many storm victims say.

"I could end up on the street just as I'm trying to get back on my feet," said Pujol, 23, who earns money by cleaning hotel rooms. Her husband is disabled and cannot work.

Dozens of Puerto Ricans interviewed by The Associated Press expressed similar fears as the deadline loomed. Many are poor, living on fixed incomes or getting by in low-wage jobs. They have no relatives who can help or savings to fall back on, and they did not own their homes.

Some like Flores struggle to find work because they don't speak English well. Others have children with special medical or educational needs.

"To start all over again is really hard," said Ivette Ramirez, whose home in the Puerto Rican city of Bayamon was flooded by the worst storm to strike the island in decades. The restaurant where she and her husband worked was destroyed. She is now staying in a hotel in Dedham, Massachusetts, with aid from FEMA.

So far, FEMA has provided $113 million in rental assistance to 129,000 people who were in Maria's path across the island. Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello has asked for the deadline to be extended to May 14, and the government says it is reviewing the request.

Nonprofit groups, churches and state and local governments have also provided temporary housing help and other forms of support to the tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans who fled to the mainland in the aftermath of the Sept. 20 storm.

Several Massachusetts groups helped Maria Reyes when her FEMA hotel assistance ended after two months. She was able to move from one hotel near Boston to another while caring for her 7-year-old grandson.

Her former home in San Juan public housing has been deemed habitable, but she wants to stay on the mainland to get better medical care. She doesn't know how long she will be able to stay in this hotel, or where she will go next.

"I can't live like this with a little kid," the 55-year-old said. "I need more time. I need God to hear me."

Noe Casiano came to Florida with his wife and three children, including one born with severe birth defects a day before the storm swept across the island and flooded their apartment in a public housing complex near San Juan.

Their FEMA benefits ended when their home was approved for habitation, but their newborn was getting emergency treatment in St. Petersburg. For a week, they slept all together in the hospital, but they have since moved to a nearby shelter. They still don't want to go back to Puerto Rico, where the family believes their daughter won't get the treatment she needs because medical specialists are scarce on the island following a 10-year economic crisis.

"I have nothing in Puerto Rico. It would be like going to an empty shoebox," the 29-year-old father said, his voice breaking.

For the most part, evacuees try to make themselves at home. At several hotels, they share meals and keep each other company. Some have added personal touches, like a portrait of Jesus that Acosta leans against a cardboard box at the hotel in Boqueron in southwestern Puerto Rico.

Ivan Ferreira, a 55-year-old retiree at the same hotel, said he's grateful for the lodging but points out that he could have fixed part of his house for what FEMA has paid for the room.

Back in the Boston area, Flores' hotel initially offered a welcome break from the chaos after the storm. But now it's become tedious.

"The only entertainment I have is my son," she said.

Her husband managed to find work as a cook but she has had no luck. It doesn't help that she doesn't have a car and her hours will have to be limited because she has to care for her baby.

"I've applied for everything I see, but I don't hear anything," she said.


Associated Press writer Claudia Torrens reported this story in Dedham, Massachusetts, AP writer Gisela Salomon reported in Miami and AP writer Danica Coto reported in Boqueron and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Read More

There are no comments yet. Be the first to post your thoughts. or Register.

The Latest News Headlines

  • Police continue to investigate a series of deadly bombings in Austin after authorities said the suspect, identified as Mark Anthony Conditt, 23, killed himself early Wednesday. >> READ MORE: Who is Mark Anthony Conditt, the suspected Austin bomber? | Trump says 'it's not easy to find' culprit in first public comment on Austin bombings | 'Hold your leaders accountable': Chance the Rapper tweets about Austin bombings | Photos: Austin police investigate explosions | For investigators, a race to decode hidden message in Austin bombings | Map shows location of 4 Austin bombs | Austin explosions: 2 men hurt in fourth blast this month | Officials increase reward to $115,000 for information on Austin bombings | Man held in SXSW threat ruled out as bomb suspect, police say | Austin package explosions: 3 blasts appear connected, claim 2 lives, police say | The Roots' SXSW show canceled after bomb threat; man arrested | Austin package bombings: Friends remember victims Draylen Mason, Anthony House| MORE
  • Family, friends and the Sacramento community are demanding answers in the death of an unarmed black man killed by police in his own backyard Sunday night, holding nothing but a cellphone in his hand. Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn told Fox40 that officers fired on Stephon Alonzo “Zoe” Clark a total of 20 times. Clark, 23, died at the scene, leaving behind two young sons.  Hahn was on hand Tuesday night at a City Council meeting, where several residents of the community protested the officer-involved shooting.  “To hell with Sac PD,” resident Rebecca Person said, according to the news station. “I’m sick of them always murdering black youth.” “What is the police’s job to do? To shoot people that are unarmed in their own backyard?” another resident, Robert Copeland, asked.  Fox40 reported that the Sacramento Police Department is under fire for its morphing story of what Clark was carrying.  “They put one story out that he may have been armed. They put out another that he had a toolbar, whatever that is,” Tanya Faison, a member of the Sacramento chapter of Black Lives Matter, told the news station. “Then they put out that he had a wrench and then they put out that he just had a cellphone.  “They need to get it together.” The two officers involved in the shooting are being criticized for waiting five minutes, until additional officers came to the scene, to handcuff Clark and begin rendering first aid. Department officials are also facing criticism for not promptly informing Clark’s family, including the grandparents and siblings he lived with, that he was the one gunned down in their yard.  Fox40 reported that Clark’s family called 911 for help after hearing gunshots right outside their window.  Sequita Thompson, Clark’s grandmother, told the Sacramento Bee that she was sitting in her dining room when she heard the shots. “The only thing that I heard was, ‘pow, pow, pow, pow,’ and I got to the ground,” Thompson told the newspaper.  Thompson described crawling to where her 7-year-old granddaughter slept on a couch in an adjacent den, where she got the girl onto the floor. She then made her way to her husband, who uses a wheelchair, and he dialed 911.  Thompson said neither she nor her husband heard officers issue any commands prior to firing the fatal gunshots.  The grieving grandmother told the Bee that investigators interviewed her for hours about what she heard, but never told her it was her grandson who had been killed. She finally looked out a window and saw his body. “I opened that curtain and he was dead. I started screaming,” Thompson said.  Hahn said he and his investigators initially had no idea Clark was related to the homeowners.  “We found out they were related because the family told us so,” the chief told Fox40. Hahn said in a news release Monday that officers were called to the family’s neighborhood around 9:15 p.m. Sunday on a report of a man breaking several car windows. The suspect was described as a thin man, just over 6 feet in height and wearing a black hoodie and dark pants. The caller said the man was hiding in a backyard. Dispatchers sent officers to the scene, where the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department also had a helicopter searching for the suspect from the air, the news release said. About 12 minutes after the 911 call was made, the crew in the helicopter told officers on the ground they saw the alleged suspect in a backyard, where he picked up what looked like a toolbar and broke the sliding glass door of the home before running south toward the front of the house.  That house was next door to the Thompsons’ home. The officers on the ground, directed to his location by the helicopter crew, confronted Clark as he came up along the side of his grandparents’ home, the news release said. When they ordered him to show his hands, he fled to the backyard, officials said.  “Officers pursued the suspect and located him in the backyard of the residence,” the news release said. “The suspect turned and advanced towards the officers while holding an object which was extended in front of him.” Believing the object was a gun, the officers opened fire, the news release said. Clark was struck multiple times, though the exact number of gunshot wounds was not immediately known. A follow-up news release issued later Monday stated that no weapon was found near Clark’s body. “After an exhaustive search, scene investigators did not locate any firearms,” the news release stated. “The only item found near the suspect was a cellphone.” Homicide investigators and crime scene technicians said they found three vehicles with damage they believe Clark caused, as well as the shattered sliding glass door that the helicopter crew said they witnessed him break, the news release said.  The only items investigators found that could have been the toolbar described by the helicopter crew included a cinder block and a piece of aluminum that may have come from a gutter. Both were found near the broken sliding glass door, the Bee reported.  Both officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave, the newspaper said. One of the officers has eight years of law enforcement experience, half of it with the Sacramento department.  The other officer has six years total experience, two of those in Sacramento.  Sacramento city policy requires any body-camera footage of an officer-involved shooting to be made public within 30 days, the Bee reported.  Hahn said he plans to release the officers’ body camera footage, as well as footage from a camera aboard the helicopter, after it has been shared with Clark’s family, Fox40 reported. He anticipated having the footage released by week’s end.  The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office, the city attorney’s office and the city’s Office of Public Safety Accountability are investigating the shooting, as is the department’s homicide and internal affairs units.  The Bee reported that Clark was at least the 17th person to die in confrontations with law enforcement in Sacramento County in the past two years. Besides the young father, three others were unarmed. 
  • House Bill 85, signed by Governor Scott, allows the sharing of voter information to make sure people aren’t registered in other states. “The bill allows the state of Florida to join ERIC, which stands for Electronic Registration Information Center, a multistate voter registration database,” according to Clay County Supervisor of Elections Chris Chambless. He says the old way relied on a line on the registration form that requested the address where the voter was last registered. That information was NOT required. Now that Florida can share with other states, that information will automatically be provided.  He says it will help prevent voter fraud. The measure, sponsored by Representative Ross Spano, allows the state to share voter information with other states if that effort is not controlled by the federal government.  It also allows Florida to share driver’s license information.
  • A Mill Creek, Washington, man is facing charges after a treehouse was found in the Snoqualmie National Forest with child pornography hanging on the walls inside. >> Watch the news report here KIRO-TV first reported on the discovery off the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River in February. The unauthorized treehouse was reported by an employee of the Department of Natural Resources, according to court documents. A DNR worker took a couple of the photographs off the wall to show law enforcement and called the King County Sheriff's Office. The DNR employee took a detective to the treehouse, which was described in court documents as 'an elaborate tree house that resembled a fairy or gingerbread house.' The treehouse was about 8 feet off the ground with a porch surrounding it. >> On KIRO7.com: Treehouse filled with child porn found near North Bend Investigators say that inside the treehouse they found photographs of naked young girls framed on the walls. There was also a bed, food, supplies, a book and an electronic keyboard. They found an envelope with more pornographic images. The King County Sheriff's Office handed the case over to the FBI to investigate. The FBI sent KIRO-TV new photos of the house on Monday. The FBI searched the cabin in April 2017 and collected items to test for fingerprints and DNA to find out who built the cabin. They took construction photos, smoking material, bedding, glasses, photos of girls, bags of batteries and glass from the photograph frames. They sent the items to the FBI laboratory in Quantico. Federal investigators said they also talked to a Search and Rescue volunteer who said he had seen an SUV near the cabin on multiple occasions, and he had the license plate information. Investigators tracked down the owner of the vehicle and watched him. >> Read more trending news  Investigators said they took a swab from the handle of his motorcycle and later got a paper drinking cup he discarded. Those items were also sent to the lab in Quantico. According to court documents, the items tested at Quantico positively identified the 56-year-old Mill Creek man. Court records show Daniel Wood, of Mill Creek, has been charged with two counts of child pornography possession. FBI agents searched Woods condominium in Mill Creek in February and collected his computers, Amazon Fire, SD cards, Polaroid tablet, VHS tapes and video recorder.
  • A Middletown woman told police that because there was a warrant out for her arrest, she was afraid to report the death of her mother. Police were called Monday morning to a residence in the 3200 block of Goldman Avenue on a report of a dead body. There, police found an 88-year-old woman dead in her bedroom. MORE: What a West Chester man told the judge before being sentenced on child porn charges The woman’s daughter, who also lives in the house, told police she found her mother dead in her bed Thursday —four days earlier — but she didn’t contact police. The “only reason” she reported her mother’s death is because her daughter, who also lives in the home, asked about her grandmother and found her dead, according to the police report. >> Read more trending news  The woman had a warrant for her arrest for failure to appear on traffic charges through Middletown Municipal Court, the report said. MORE: Grand jury to consider murder charge against Butler County babysitter Police also contacted another daughter of the dead woman and she told them she hadn’t seen her mother since Thanksgiving. Another daughter told police she last saw her mother a couple of months ago, and she was planning to take her mother to see a doctor this week. The Butler County Coroner’s Office was contacted and took possession of the woman’s body.

The Latest News Videos