Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Living without a Roof in Puerto Rico

Images of palm trees and miles of gorgeous white-sandy beaches are perhaps some of the things which most people associate Puerto Rico with. Well, for those of whom have never lived in Puerto Rico, that is. Homelessness is probably not something which people think is an issue here on the island. Most attribute homelessness to be a problem relegated to the big cities, like New York and Los Angeles. Unfortunately, as do most who live in the San Juan-metro area, I come across at least three or four homeless people (referred to as "tecatos" by Puerto Ricans) begging for money at major traffic lights around the capital city.

The exact number of homeless people living in Puerto Rico has not been verified. However, after several Google search attempts, I came across the article "Mal Parado Puerto Rico sobre informe de deambulantes" ("Puerto Rico does poorly in Study over the Homeless"). According to this article, a 2007 study conducted by the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center for Homelessness & Poverty, the officially number of homeless people was at 5,100. This statistic should be multiplied by three or four times, said a representative of La Fondita de Jesús, a local charity group which aims to help the homeless. I absolutely agree with her.

Just last night, as we came home, we were confronted with this sad reality. As I turned into our driveway, we saw a man lying still on the ground in front of our neighbor's house. I immediately called the police, and three patrol cars came within five minutes. One of the police officers yelled something at him and he woke up. I'm not sure if this homeless man left in one of the patrol cars but chances are he's back out on the streets again, and not getting the help and rehabilitation he needs.


Kofla Olivieri said...

Homelessness is one of those sad realities of our society. And as bad as the situation look, I am afraid it is going to get worse. Many of these individuals have mental and drug/alcohol issues. And funding for those programs is being cut. At the clinic where I work in Philly, last October the city decided no to continue funding our homeless program. Over a thousand people without medical services and a couple of social workers sent to unemployment.

Yadira said...

Tecatos are not necessarily homeless!
Tecatos = heavy drug users
Many have homes, families yet make the choice to ask for money to buy drugs.

adriana said...

Hello Kofla,

It's sad how funding is being cut for rehabilitation while spending on locking-up drug addicts is being increased. Not a good situation.

Thanks for your comments and for sharing your experiences. Both are very much appreciated.

adriana said...

Hello Yadira,

You're right, not all tecatos are homeless. Then again, some simply are. I suppose it's just semantics.

Thanks for your comments.