Puerto Rican evacuees search for housing as vouchers expire

York

Hurricane Maria swept across Puerto Rico a year ago, leaving behind widespread devastation and forcing millions of people to leave behind their homes and livelihoods.

More than 3,600 people came to York County, looking for places to work and live. Many sought help at The New American Welcome Center at the YMCA of York, which organizes local and federal resources like free hotel vouchers.

But those vouchers expired Friday, and refugees must now look for other options.

“We’re using shelters all over the county,” center director Jose Santiago said. “The shelters are overfull with hundreds of people on the waiting list.”

City officials say they want refugees to feel welcome in York, but there’s just not enough affordable housing or landlords willing to accommodate. 

“Housing is the stopping block,” Santiago said. “People can’t get housing in time and so they’re leaving to Philly and New York where they don’t have the problems here of not enough housing.”

FEMA said in a court filing last month that Puerto Rico has received $3.9 billion in assistance for Hurricane Maria. The Associated Press reports more than 600 families on the mainland were still using hotel vouchers.

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