• Center for Puerto Rican evacuees at OIA to close Dec. 29

    By: Lauren Seabrook

    Updated:

    ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - The welcome center for Puerto Ricans arriving at Orlando International Airport will close on Dec. 29, officials said.

    The center has offered assistance to those relocating to Central Florida since Hurricane Maria devastated the island in September.  

    There are booths to help people find shelter, food, supplies and employment.

    There are still people coming through every day, some of whom will sleep at the airport overnight so they can be first in line the next day.

    It’s not clear what evacuees will have to do once the center closes.

    Like the 28,000 evacuees so far, Joy Matos and her husband went through the disaster center at the airport for guidance with their new lives.

    "A place to stay. That was the most important thing,” Matos said.

    But state emergency management said the center is helping more people who are driving in and have been in Central Florida a little while, than actual passengers getting off planes from Puerto Rico.

    That’s why state, county and airport leaders have decided to close the center in two weeks.

    Matos said many Puerto Ricans have been waiting it out, and praying the power would come back on.

    But after almost 90 days, she said some just can't take it anymore and are planning moves to Central Florida in the new year.

    She worries about what will happen to them when they land and don't know where to go for support with healthcare, job leads, food assistance, FEMA aid, emotional therapy, or school registration.

    Emergency management said it's working with local, state, and federal partners to open a new resource center for evacuees by the end of the year, but it does not have a location or date yet.

     

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