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.