‘I Start From Zero’: Puerto Rico Evacuee Seeks New Start In Miami

There are three disaster relief centers in Florida, two of them are in Miami

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — In the wake of Hurricane Maria, many Puerto Ricans are fleeing the devastated Island and coming to the US, especially Florida where disaster relief centers are set up to help evacuees.

Awilda Corretjer and her daughter Sabrina are trying to resettle in Miami.

“It’s not easy. I can’t sleep,” cried Corretjer. “It’s hard.”

They are among about 58,000 Puerto Ricans who fled to Florida after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.

“It’s very difficult to organize everything because looking for a house, a school, healthcare, aid; makes me feel I had everything there,” she recalled.

A disaster relief center at Miami International Airport is one of three set up across the state for evacuees. More than 50 groups are lending a hand, including FEMA and the Red Cross, helping people find shelter, food and even counseling.

“They get the help they need in order to succeed here,” explained Gloria Mejia from the American Red Cross.

Florida lawmaker and Puerto Rican native Robert Asencio says he’s scrambling to find affordable housing, jobs, and schools for the new arrivals.

“The quicker we get them into the society, the quicker we’ll be able to offset the expense to the state and help improve their quality of life while they’re here,” said Rep. Asencio, D-Miami.

Evacuee Alfredo Alatrista was at the airport with everything he owns, but the Salvation Army is helping.

“A house, food, a job I mean transportation, everything. I start from zero,” he explained.

At 62-years-old, he remains positive.

“I cannot cry over this. The hurricane came, the hurricane left. I’m here, I’m alive.”

Like so many others, he is determined to build a new life.

Many evacuees say they would like to return to Puerto Rico, but much depends on the rebuilding efforts there.

Meantime, the Senate is expected to vote on a $36.5 billion bill to aid communities affected by recent natural disasters — a measure that could bring relief to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, the majority of which is still without power.

The legislation passed a procedural hurdle Monday, meaning a full vote on the measure could happen Tuesday, or possibly Wednesday.

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