Photo: Courtesy of Primera Hora. Photographer: Luis Alcalá del Olmo
Hurricane María tore down the security fence of Hogar Ruth and left 35 women and children who had sought refuge in the emergency shelter exposed to potential attackers.
“Safety is vital for the women and children we shelter because their physical and emotional health is at risk,” said Lisdel Flores. She added that the women sheltered at Hogar Ruth are running away from domestic abuse.
Lisdel explained that as soon as the hurricane passed she examined the premises and tried to temporarily repair the torn fence with volunteers by raising the remaining stakes to protect as best as possible the grounds. She filed an insurance claim but found out quickly that the fence was not covered. Then, Lisdel turned to FEMA and discovered there were no funds for property repair if they were not part of the main structure.
Meanwhile, prowlers shook the tranquility of those sheltered at Hogar Ruth. The repair of the fence was urgently needed to guarantee the safety of the women and children sheltered there. Hogar Ruth was one of the few shelters for domestic violence victims that had remained in operation seven days a week, 24 hours a day during and after the storm. Its services were essential, so much so that during the emergency period right after the hurricane, five cases had been referred to it. These new guests were women who had suffered violence from their partners while staying in one of the many public shelters that opened for the storm around Puerto Rico.
As soon as Lisdel found out that she could seek funds from Unidos por Puerto Rico, she filed a grant proposal requesting funds to secure the grounds with a stronger fence that could weather a hurricane in the future. Instead of a chain link fence, she proposed to build a concrete fence. In late November, she requested $67,880.
The proposal was reviewed by one of the new program officials, Inés Rivera, a social worker with years of experience working with NGOs. Once Inés reviewed the required documents and confirmed the need for the fence, she immediately recommended approval of the grant. It was submitted to Unidos board for a vote in December. Three days after reviewing the grant proposal, the check was ready.
“The building of the front fence is nearly complete,” added the director of Hogar Ruth, a shelter that has been in operation for 34 years and which annually provides a temporary home to 300 women. In total, the nonprofit organization serves 4,800 people a year through a series of programs.
“The most effective way to channel aid is through organizations that have a proven track record and who understand the needs of the people they serve. Hogar Ruth serves one of the most vulnerable segments of society, women and children who flee from violence and who need a haven to rebuild their lives,” said Mariely Rivera, Executive Director of United for Puerto Rico.