In September 2017, Hurricane Maria caused extraordinary destruction to the islands of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Hundreds of thousands of residents were displaced from their homes. Many of those individuals have relocated to the continental US. According to the PA Department of State, Pennsylvania is the second largest destination by numbers of new arrivals, behind Florida.
As of March 30, 2018 Lancaster County has welcomed 304 students to area schools. The estimate for total households, including households without school age children, as well as senior citizens, is closer to 500. Many of the families arrive in Lancaster with very few resources.
In response to this crisis, a coalition of providers from the social services, faith-based, government, and philanthropists have convened to map out a system of support to ensure that our fellow Americans can quickly get back on their feet. CAP, SACA, and Church World Service are serving as the backbone of this collective response, as outlined in the map below. Our model of support presumes new arrivals connect first with SACA’s welcome center, which includes application for FEMA benefits. Then CAP and SACA provide intensive and person-centered case management and referrals to an extensive network of partners, and Church World Service specializes in housing location and job placement, a service they already provide as a refugee resettlement agency.
Since the start of the new year, SACA has supported 90 families. Thirty-five have been referred to CAP navigators for additional support locating housing, employment, health care, and childcare. Church World Service successfully secured $40,000 to support housing assistance for new arrivals. The partners are in the process of seeking additional flexible funding that can respond to the unique needs of each household as they pursue their plans of rebuilding their lives here. Our shared goal is to ensure new Lancastrians are gainfully employed or in school, able to heal mentally and physically from the trauma they have suffered, and meaningfully connected to their new neighbors.
Below are some helpful links for evacuees, their friends and families, and service providers.