KISSIMMEE, Fla. - For the first time in the 54 days since Hurricane Maria decimated Puerto Rico, Florida Gov. Rick Scott gathered Central Florida mayors, nonprofits and Federal Emergency Management Administration officials into one room to discuss relief efforts face-to-face.
At least 70,000 of Puerto Ricans have fled the island and relocated to Central Florida and one of the big issues is finding them housing, officials said.
“When you have families that are living in hotels, but you know in a week they’re going to be on the streets, it gets frustrating,” said Latino Leadership executive director Marucci Guzman.
County and city mayors said they have available land for trailers in Orange and Osceola counties, but asked the state and FEMA to take a wholistic approach, so evacuees won’t be all in one place and overcrowd schools.
FEMA officials said they have limited housing options for Puerto Rican evacuees because the storm damage didn’t happen on the mainland.
Scott said it would be up to local municipalities to choose from the options that are available, “because they have better information than anybody does at the state and federal level.”
Some local organizations have started telling Puerto Rican citizens not to come to Florida if they don’t have a plan to avoid homelessness.
When asked if Puerto Ricans should come to Florida, Scott said yes, but added a caveat.
“Well, I always want to promote our state,” he said. “I mean, I travel the world trying to tell people to come here either to live or come here for tourism. And I’m not going to stop doing that.
“But I do want to make sure people have the resources they need.”
Scott said that if FEMA’s housing options are not sufficient to serve all the Puerto Rican evacuees now living in Florida, he would go back to the administration or directly to President Donald Trump to ask for more.
So far - 70,000 evacuees from Puerto Rico have relocated to Orange County. 2,000 are students enrolled in Orange County Schools. Waiting on a roundtable with @FLGovScott & local mayors to begin. @WFTV pic.twitter.com/hmS2cwvLuv— Lauren Seabrook (@LSeabrookWFTV) November 13, 2017
Orange County Mayor says she wants to know FEMA is making a housing option available for PR evacuees that's wholistic across the state. @FLGovScott says he thinks counties should make decision based on needs of each area. @WFTV pic.twitter.com/4rbNSVkS57— Lauren Seabrook (@LSeabrookWFTV) November 13, 2017
FEMA rep says they are "part" of the team but not the whole "team" and state/local leaders make up the rest. @WFTV— Lauren Seabrook (@LSeabrookWFTV) November 13, 2017
Kissimmee's Mayor says hundreds of thousands of people are still waiting on standby in Puerto Rico to come to FL. He says if you walk around and ask where they plan to go - they all says Orlando or Kissimmee. @WFTV— Lauren Seabrook (@LSeabrookWFTV) November 13, 2017
Airport suggests handing out fact sheets to evacuees as they board planes in Puerto Rico. They suggest gather info from each organization at the airport receiving center to add to paperwork. @WFTV— Lauren Seabrook (@LSeabrookWFTV) November 13, 2017
While state & local leaders say evacuees are welcome with open arms, some Orlando charities are telling people in Puerto Rico not to come here because of lack of hosing. @WFTV— Lauren Seabrook (@LSeabrookWFTV) November 13, 2017
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