The moment was early December, 2017. Months after Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, 30K+ families were living in homes without roofs, making a temporary home with friends and family, or sleeping in a shelter.
After three months of providing assistance in the form of debris management and medical services (to paint the picture, over 229 volunteers treated 2,592 patients and cleared miles of waterways) Team Rubicon knew it could do more.
The primary question at that moment was a question of whether we could help accelerate families’ recovery and move beyond putting tarps on homes — to rebuilding roofs to code. Perhaps as importantly, whether we could do this for families who did have land tenure (which accounts for approximately 50% of housing in Puerto Rico). The answer was yes.
Central to our ability to rebuild roofs, was the need for a trusted community partner that had been working in these communities ahead of Hurricane Maria and would continue to support these families long after hammers stopped swinging. Cue Disaster Services Corporation, St Vincent de Paul USA.
Some of us had worked with Disaster Services Corporation, St Vincent de Paul USA. in a variety of fashions. Whether in the midst of disaster, coordinating ahead of disasters at state VOADs (Voluntary Agencies Active in Disaster) or working through committees at NVOAD (National Voluntary Agencies Active in Disaster), they have always been eager colleagues to drive progress. To say the least, it was an easy decision to call Elizabeth Disco-Shearer, CEO, to ask if the team would be up for assisting us.
Considering the devastation from Hurricane Maria and the economic challenges preceding the storm, we shifted from a traditional approach of mobilizing volunteers to instead hiring local Puerto Ricans. Working with four general contractors, employing 89 local workers, Team Rubicon has been able to rebuild 253 roofs and assist the recovery of 736 individuals.
Partnerships are key in any endeavor post-disaster. FEMA has been supportive of Team Rubicon’s efforts and have provided some material to help keep costs manageable. Local municipalities and local leaders have assisted us as we identify families to assist and a number of other people and organizations have been quick to be of assistance.
This has been a humbling mission considering the effects of Hurricane Maria and we’re proud to be able to partner with Disaster Services Corporation, St Vincent de Paul USA. to help families affected by Hurricane Maria.