Chicago Center Welcomes Hurricane Maria Evacuees

CHICAGO (CBS) — Thousands of families are still in flux some seven weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico.

And as CBS 2’s Sandra Torres reports, many in the Chicago area are trying to start over, especially with the help of the Humboldt Park Field House, where a “Welcome to Chicago” sign can be seen hanging in front of the facility.

In the heart of the Puerto Rican community, the facility is a place that usually draws in youth. Now, it has become a center to welcome evacuees from the island.

Elimagdi Amaro moved to Chicago from the island one month ago. “I came here with the help of my sister to start looking for a job. I left my husband in Puerto Rico so I can get a job and help him.”

Amaro is living in a Hyde Park apartment with 15 other evacuees. “It’s not easy not having anything — no jobs, even no food. We are doing the most that we can,” she said.

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Raul Figueroa, who arrived to the city on Wednesday, is experiencing a similar situation.

“I had my own place, my own car, I had everything there. Now I’m here, I’m, like, inbetween places, I don’t have any means to move around.”

This brought Amaro and Figueroa to the welcome center on Monday.

Commissioner Joel Mitchell, who’s with the Dept. of Family and Support Services, says they’ve been seeing about 100 individuals on average. “So our four-day total is about 400.”

While there, visitors can stop at booths and get information on how they can start a life in their new home.

“People can come here and they can get connected to their FEMA resources, housing, school, CDPH [Chicago Department of Public Health], medical — it’s great to have one space they can come then leave,” Mitchell said.

Amaro added, “It’s good there’s people trying to help us as much as they can.”

The welcome center is open on Mondays and Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. until the end of November. Organizers told CBS 2 that they are going to access the need at that time to determine if it’s necessary to keep the center open for a longer period of time.

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