About four months after hurricanes ravaged parts of the Caribbean, evacuees who’ve come to Connecticut are still looking for a place to live.
Wilson Torres has been living with his grandmother in a small two-bedroom apartment on North Main Street in Waterbury for years. Though, after Hurricane Maria destroyed much of Puerto Rico, their apartment is filling up quickly.
His parents, Louis and Lourdes; his sister, Ana; and her 15-year-old daughter have found refuge in Connecticut since they arrived November 28 and there’s not a lot of room in the apartment for the family of six.
“Well, my grandmother has been sleeping here in this lounge here,” Wilson Torres said as he showed us his living room.
A small hallway leads to the first bedroom.
“This is my grandmother’s room and this is the room my sister and my niece are using right now,” Torres said, showing the apartment to NBC Connecticut.
Space was taken by bags in every corner to fit their items. Then, Wilson took us into his second bedroom.
“This is my room where my mom and dad sleep now,” he said.
Wilson sleeps on the floor of his living room.
He said his family has applied for apartments through the Housing Authority in Waterbury.
“They’re on a waiting list for six months to a year, two years. Yes it’s tough,” he said.
The need is great. Connecticut’s online resource guide for people arriving in our state from Puerto Rico has been downloaded more than 4,300 times.
As of December, 1,485 students from the island have enrolled in Connecticut public schools since the hurricanes hit.
But to have housing, Wilson’s sister, Ana, has found she needs income, which means she needs a job and it’s something she is desperately trying to find.
“We need help. We need space where we can be like living comfortable and we want to work,” she said.
Finding housing is a challenge many cities across the state are experiencing with an influx of people coming from hurricane-ravaged areas.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Monday that the federal government needs to address financial burdens. He is hoping there is relief on the way for states like Connecticut helping hurricane victims, such as the Torres family.
“I’m championing a relief bill which would provide about $154 billion and a major part of it for communities, like Connecticut, where housing is necessary for people who are coming here to escape the ravages,” he said.
There is a local effort in Waterbury to help those in need.
A hurricane relief center on the first floor of 236 Grand St. assists evacuees with services like ESL classes, job information and housing.
“We’re going with the aspect that if we can find employment and they’re gainfully employed, we’ll be able to find them apartments,” said Roxanne Augelli, Waterbury’s hurricane relief coordinator.
Until there is either more housing or more financial help, the Torres family will be in a tight space.