Helping Puerto Rico

Earthquake Update

The South coast of Puerto Rico has suffered a series of ongoing earthquakes beginning on December 28th, 2019 and peaking in a 6.4 magnitude tremor early in the morning on January 7th which caused an island-wide power outage. 

SBP is currently supporting the disaster response to the earthquakes in the following ways:

  • We are deploying a team of trained team members in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity to conduct damage assessments in homes in the affected areas.
  • We've secured donations of urgent needs supplies, including 80 camping tents, 100 self-inflatable sleeping pads, 100 portable showers, 100 water filters, and 400 solar lanterns, and will be distributing them among affected communities. 
  • We've collaborated with disaster-response organizations to create a user-friendly database of volunteer needs with direct points of contact for efficient connections for individuals looking to help. You can find it here!

Due to the continued tremors and the nature of the damage, there are no rebuilding opportunities available right now. To be sure, SBP is committed to supporting the long-term recovery of families affected by the earthquakes once there is a better understanding of the permanent damage and we can identify the best way we can have an impact.

If you're interested in supporting or want to know more, please email us at prvolunteer@sbpusa.org or call 787-982-2190.


THE PROBLEM

On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria made landfall on the island of Puerto Rico. The estimated damage to housing stock is a staggering $35 billion. The damage to major infrastructure and the electrical grid are significant, as much of the island was still without power 9 months into recovery. As a result, Puerto Rico’s economy and population are in decline. Abandoned properties throughout the island’s communities will eventually degrade to urban blight and creating a host of other issues. Many citizens are living in moldy or gutted homes they are unable to repair. Few have any idea what comes next. Human beings are resilient, but they need real, clear, reliable information.  This lack of predictability will drive many survivors past their breaking point. Without it, many will just give up.

 

THE SOLUTION

Rebuild

SBP established its long-term operating site in Puerto Rico in August of 2018 with support from Mylan and vehicles from Toyota, to move towards its goal of rebuilding and/or repairing 100 homes in the first year. We have focused our efforts in several municipalities, including Carolina, Canovanas, Loiza, San Juan and Yabucoa, successfully completing 23 projects already and with the commitment to continue serving communities as long as there is a need.

Share

An effective recovery only happens when shared learning happens. By training other organizations on SBP’s best practices and sharing AmeriCorps members, SBP will help to build the capacity of other rebuilding organizations on the island. We have identified several partner organizations that we will support who are doing great work in areas like Yabucoa and Loíza.

Prepare

Sixty percent of residents in Puerto Rico were rejected by FEMA. There is a significant need for assistance with appeals. Lack of FEMA funds are a major inhibitor of scaled construction activity. SBP will support residents by helping clients navigate current recovery program options and provide preparedness training directly to individuals and groups so they are better able to face a natural disaster in the future.

Advise

Puerto Rico has been awarded $18.5 billion, the largest disaster aid package from HUD in U.S. history to address the damage caused by Hurricane Maria. Damage to homes, infrastructure and the economy is extensive. As we have done in several counties and cities in previous disasters, SBP will partner with the government to design programs that elevate outcome and pace to the same level of importance as compliance, and that introduces more resilient approaches to rebuilding.

Advocate

SBP will continue to advocate for a smarter, more efficient system of disaster recovery by highlighting ways that the recovery in Puerto Rico (and other communities where we work) could be sped up through greater collaboration across agencies to be more accurate and timely.

 

One example: We’d like FEMA to develop clearer instructions for disaster impacted applicants. A step-by-step, document-by-document approach would be helpful. SBP can work to provide this service ourselves and with partners, but a FEMA partnership would help with the accuracy of messaging and will help increase the success rate of these activities.