This is a disaster legal aid initiative with a legal empowerment perspective. We will provide legal education and support to families and communities affected by the recent earthquakes. This program will also train pro bono lawyers and students who will help provide legal assistance to these communities through community brigades. Our work is grounded on our experience after the 2017 major hurricanes, when we created and implemented the first disaster legal aid initiative in the Island.
On the first days of 2020, Puerto Rico was struck by several earthquakes. Hundreds of houses, roads, and public infrastructures were affected, particularly in the Southern part of the Island. Families are sleeping on the streets, afraid that their houses will collapse. 95% of schools, many of them used as shelters, are unsafe and not up to code. Affected communities, many of them impoverished, were already under precarious condition after the major hurricanes of 2017.
This program will provide legal accompaniment to communities and families affected by the recent disasters. We have a long experience providing capacity training for pro bono attorneys, providing free legal education to community partners, celebrating legal brigades, accompanying people to apply and receive disaster assistance and advocating for the just recovery of the impoverished. This legal empowerment program will give support while defending the right to housing of communities.
The experience of 2017 major hurricanes taught us that while first response is critical, hands and voices to amplify demands for assistance to repair houses, get temporary shelter assistance and have a just recovery. Disaster legal response is instrumental to safeguard the long term and equitable recovery of these communities, denouncing and acting against actions that discriminate or hinder access and by promoting the empowerment and permanence of social tissues.