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BPS opens centers for Puerto Rican families

Boston Cares initiative aims to ease transition

Karen Morales
BPS opens centers for Puerto Rican families
Countdown to Kindergarten Director Sonia Gomez-Banrey describes the school department’s efforts to welcome families upended by Hurricane Maria.

Boston Public Schools has opened pop-up centers to receive families from the Caribbean who have lost their homes to Hurricane Maria and Irma and help them transition into housing, public education, and a way of life in Boston.

On the Web

Specific locations and hours of pop-up centers can be viewed online at:

“We have brought together over 30 different departments and community organizations over the last two weeks to plan for this effort,” said Tommy Chang, BPS superintendent. “It’s a complete collaboration across the city of Boston and I’m very grateful that everybody is willing to invest time and resources so families can transition to Boston and BPS as easy as possible.”

The initiative, called Boston Cares, provides one-stop-shops for arriving Puerto Rican families to be linked to all necessary services such as school placement, finding housing, food pantries, medical or mental health assistance, legal support and more. BPS has partnered with Inquilinos Boricuas en Accion, South Boston en Accion, and Sociedad Latina as locations for the popup centers, in addition to four welcome centers at BPS locations.

Last Monday and Tuesday, 42 families arrived and received help from BPS, with that number expected to double over time, said Monica Roberts, assistant superintendent of engagement for BPS.

“We plan to accommodate every family that comes,” said Roberts.

Chang said that there are 200 seats available at schools for arriving students, and “If more is needed, more will be created.” In accommodating new students and possibly creating more seats, Chang said if there’s an impact on the BPS budget, “We’ll figure out a way to absorb those costs — it’s too important.”

He added, “It’s not something I’m even worried about right now.”

Much-needed support

Sonia Gomez-Banrey, Director of Countdown to Kindergarten, told the Banner, “We know that one of the hardest things for Boston is finding inventory for housing. If people do not have a place to live, we will make referrals to shelters and guide them with filling out Section 8 housing applications.”

The issue hits close to home for Gomez-Banrey. Her family is from San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico. After Hurricane Maria hit, she lost contact with her mother on the island for two weeks when power was lost.

“I know of the devastation and how hard it is,” said Gomez-Banrey, whose mother arrived in Boston two weeks ago and is staying at her home in Roslindale. “She’s just so thankful to be here and have access to basic things like clean water and a hot shower.”

Roberts stated that BPS is working to welcome new students, some of whom are coming from Puerto Rico on their own, with “little time lost” and with emotional, social, and Spanish language supports.

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