Emergency Rent & Transit 4 Evacuees

In September 2017, Hurricane Maria hit the island Puerto Rico, destroying homes and personal possessions with water damage, knocking out the power grid and infrstructure that delivered water and gas to homes and businesses, and devastating the already-crippled economy. Six months later, water and power has not been restored to great swathes of the island. 

Over 1500 evacuated Puerto Rican families have arrived in Philadelphia seeking refuge from hurricane destruction and personal trauma. The coordination and delivery of services and assitance from FEMA and state and local angencies has been wildly inadequate to meet the deep financial needs of displaced and dispossed people. Many of the families who have arrived have children and familiy members with special needs. 

The greatest demonstrated need is housing. FEMA has provided no widespread rental assistance to the VAST majority of evacuees. ~79 families out of thousands across PA are living in FEMA hotels. The state has not stepped in to help. The Philadelphia Housing Authority has provided 1 family out of 1500 with public housing and/or Section 8 vouches. Instead , over 90% of evacuees who have arrives in PA are homeless, sleeping in unfinished basements with dirt floors, on air mattresses, on couches, in living rooms, or in shelters.  

Local volunteers have come together to establish a Saturday "Drop-in" Clinic at Lillian Marrero Library Branch at 601 W Lehigh in Fairhill/West Kensington.   At the clinic, volunteers help evacuees appeal their FEMA denials for rental assistance, temporary shelter, and reimbursement for destroyed property.  The barriers to getting help from FEMA are high, appeals are common. FEMA requests faxes, ignores submitted letters, and requests that people meet inspectors in PR to confirm damanged property. Every case is a long uphill battle.

While evacyees and local organizers fight for money and permanent shelter from FEMA, HUD and the state, evacuees need their immediate needs met.

One way people can help evacuees financially is to provide toiletries and subway/SEPTA tokens that families can use to take kids to school, get to the drop-in clinic, seek work, and apply for and appeal for assistance. Transit literacy and access can open doors to opportunity and minimize stress related to scavenging for change for the bus and subway.  Each SEPTA transit ride is $2.50-$3.50 per person over 6 years old. Providing 20 tokens to a family costs $40.00 when you purchase them online in advance. 

Providing unused and upopened toiletries, like shampoo, conditioner, razors, lotion, shaving cream, hairspray, Q-itips, feminine products, can save a family a lot of money and afford the dignity of staying clean and healthy without financial strain in a very difficult situation. 

The library's transit and toiletry pantry (The original idea was our Teen Library Assisstant Yaitza's!) was a huge success at the first drop in clinic, and I would like to provide people who cannot personally drop-off toiletries the opportunity to donate. I will use all the funds we collect to add to our library supply and be distributed to families seeking FEMA aid on Saturdays.
  • Mitchell Chanin 
    • $36 
    • 44 mos
  • Charles Cannon 
    • $100 
    • 44 mos
  • Ryan Crump 
    • $25 
    • 44 mos
  • John Hagarty  
    • $30 
    • 44 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $50 
    • 44 mos
See all


Kate Goodman 
Philadelphia, PA
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