150 face homelessness almost 1 year after leaving Puerto Rico; here's how to help


About 45 families who relocated to Central Florida after Hurricane Maria ravaged the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico could become homeless Friday.

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A federal judge ruled in August that he would no longer ask the Federal Emergency Management Agency to extend its Transitional Shelter Assistance program, which pays to house displaced families in hotels. The program is scheduled to end Friday.

Vimarie Cardona is a single mother of two who works at Walt Disney World as a housekeeper. She said it has been difficult to find a place to live in a region facing an affordable housing crisis.

"Where am I going to go? I've cried so much," she said. "What am I going to do, put my kids in a car? Then go where? Sleep where?"

Hispanic community leaders held a news conference Tuesday urging FEMA to extend federal housing aid and appealing to the general public for assistance.

"The state has not done enough. It's dragged its feet in providing affordable housing in this area," a leader said. "We're going to have our people living in cars and under bridges."

Leaders said the 150 people who don't have permanent housing are elderly, are on fixed incomes, have health issues or have children with disabilities.

Cardona, who earns $1,600 per month, said she is searching for a place that costs $800 per month or less.

"The last option is going to be to drive until I can't drive anymore and see who's willing to help me," she said.

Anyone who can offer the families a place to stay for $800 per month or less is asked to call Iglesia Episcopal Jesús de Nazaret at 407-706-7313.


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