MIAMI (CBSMiami) — In the three months since Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, hundreds of thousands of people who were living on the island have come to the U.S. mainland including about 215,000 in Florida.
A study from the Hunter College Center For Puerto Rican Studies estimates more than 470,000 people will leave Puerto Rico over a two-year period.
At Orlando International Airport, thousands of families are turning up for help.
Araceles Baez Martinez and her husband Jose Rodriguez found hope in a hotel room.
Araceles arrived in Orlando with $4 in her pocket.
After arriving at Orlando’s airport, their first stop was a resource center set up for Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria.
“She emotionally is heartbroken because she misses her island,” said Betsy Franceschini, with the Hispanic Federation, who was interpreting for Baez Martinez.
The federation is a non-profit organization that helps Puerto Ricans arriving in Florida find housing, register to vote and learn English.
“The folks that are coming here and the families that are running into difficulties, you know, to find a house, to find a job, to register their children if they don’t have the documents,” said Franceschini.
More than a million Puerto Ricans already live in Florida.
In 2016, the state had the second highest Puerto Rican population in the United States, after New York.
Eliud Peña, his wife, and two stepdaughters arrived in Florida on September 24th – four days after Hurricane Maria made landfall. They’ve spent 72 days in a hotel room with double beds.
“Being inside these four walls is not helping my stress,” said 17-year-old Yerianne Roldan.
She is one of about 2,500 Hurricane Maria survivors who have enrolled in the Orange County School system and is debating going to college in Florida.
Many Florida universities are offering Puerto Rican students in-state tuition. She’s already been offered a scholarship.
“For job opportunities, I think it’s better over here,” said Yerianne.
As for Araceles, she is considering returning to Puerto Rico, eventually.