Today I received a call for help from an agency that is working to resettle Puerto Rican families in the Holyoke area. An evacuee had been staying with her sister in violation of the sister’s lease and has now become homeless as the landlord could no longer look the other way. It’s 3 degrees outside as I write this and the evacuee’s homelessness is complicated by her need to get medical attention and medications filled while working to get onto MassHealth insurance. We expected her to arrive for an appointment at the Holyoke Health Center this morning but she opted to meet with the agency that would help her get temporary shelter. We quickly re-booked a new appointment for tomorrow to get started on her medical needs and to process her MassHealth insurance forms.
A quarter of a year has elapsed since Hurricane Maria took its initial toll on Puerto Rico and this is the reality for tens of thousands of Puerto Rican families. The Holyoke Health Center has already treated over 500 patients, providing medical, dental, pharmacy eye care, and hospital services. With very little governmental relief available to the 3.5 million residents of the island, The Holyoke Health Center is joining with many others who are committing to a personal response to help Puerto Rico. We need your help to support the needs of both the Puerto Rican families who are arriving each day into our Holyoke community as well as the many families struggling to get by or even to survive in the devastation that has hit much of Puerto Rico.
You can support our efforts going to our DONATE button or by sending a check to PR Maria @ HHC, 230 Maple Street, Holyoke, MA 01040. We expect to utilize donations evenly between our work with local resettlement issues as well as help for those still struggling in Puerto Rico. Although we need to ask where our (their) government is in this disaster, we cannot stand by and wait for the needed response which many of feel is unlikely to materialize. The situation is ever changing and we want to be prepared to respond to the most pressing needs. At this time, for instance, FEMA is expected to cut off housing/shelter support as of January 12. We are pressing for leadership from elected officials to have a plan in place if the end of shelter support goes into effect in the weeks ahead.
As Chief Medical and Chief Executive Officers of the Holyoke Health Center, Dr. Alejandro Esparza and I visited Puerto Rico twice since Hurricane Maria to establish a working network of health centers like ours with the 20 community health centers in Puerto Rico. We have worked to get medicine and to support distributed throughout the island, get mosquito netting and water filters from local donors to the communities most in need, and to support in whatever way we can the many volunteer organizations and individuals who want to contribute.
Your contributions will be used to provide needed responses to the tragic situation that is growing in both the Holyoke area as well as in Puerto Rico. Fearing this will be a lingering national tragedy and disgrace, we need your support now to begin to turn the tide.
Chief Executive Officer