Disaster Legal Aid for Communities in Puerto Rico

by Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico
Disaster Legal Aid for Communities in Puerto Rico
Disaster Legal Aid for Communities in Puerto Rico
Disaster Legal Aid for Communities in Puerto Rico
Disaster Legal Aid for Communities in Puerto Rico
Disaster Legal Aid for Communities in Puerto Rico
Disaster Legal Aid for Communities in Puerto Rico
Disaster Legal Aid for Communities in Puerto Rico
Disaster Legal Aid for Communities in Puerto Rico


As we approach the next hurricane season at Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico, we prepare to respond to the potential impacts on low-income families. We are eager to share with you some of the main components of that strategy.


  1. We continue advocacy efforts to ensure just recovery for survivors of previous disasters, such as Hurricane María, the 2020 earthquakes, and Hurricane Fiona. We are aware of the aggregated impact of catastrophes. The continuity of neglect threatens the right to housing and the right to stay of survivors elsewhere. Efforts include advocacy to extend flood insurance to at-risk communities, strengthening legal awareness efforts to ensure that owners with informal titles can access assistance, and monitoring how pending recovery funds are allocated and spent.
  2. Update our dashboards and data-gathering tools to accurately narrate how recovery is moving along and who is left behind.
  3. We are preparing a KYR agenda to visit and contact communities and organizations who collaborate in just recovery efforts as first response groups, supporters, and advocates. We are ready to start our brigades in June and visit different Puerto Rico areas.
  4. Use our radio program and social media outreach to create awareness of the rights of survivors amidst disasters.
  5. We included an initiative to support nonprofits throughout disasters, assisting those interested in seeking recovery assistance.
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When 2022 started, Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico's team sat around a planning table to discuss if a permanent long-term disaster legal aid program was needed or if we needed to pivot the project instead. Although committed and involved in the attention of several hundred families still awaiting assistance after the impact of María in 2017 and the 2020 earthquakes, we felt it was time to shift our strategy, prioritize bolder demands and work on climate and housing justice for survivors. Hurricane Fiona, which im[acted on the Island in 2022, gave us a quick, condensed, and violent lesson about the relevance of these long legal empowerment and advocacy efforts. That's when we decided to reach out to you again and renew our strategy. We now integrate a more conscious racial perspective of disaster recovery equity and amplify bolder advocacy at federal and local levels. You answered. We wanted to finish this year with a report summarizing how your support and the support from fellow funders and donors have made a just recovery strategy new, more agile, and effective. This year, our just recovery program accompanied nearly 1350 families. We provided legal education and legal accompaniment and promoted advocacy next to survivors and groups that demand their right to equitable access to funds, dignified housing, and climate justice. We shifted our program to invest more in media, outreach, and policy reports that could create long and sustainable changes in procedures that impact survivors. Moreover, we were able to do more in less time. Your trust has been instrumental. We ask you to continue supporting this effort, even when an active disaster is not present. Instead of a long-term disaster legal aid program, we need a permanent commitment to Just Recovery.

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As we approach the fifth anniversary of the impact of Hurricane María, we are revisiting learnings and wins. Accompanying thousands of survivors across the year has shaped how we approach social impact advocacy and legal empowerment practices. We acknowledge that, in many cases, their conditions have not progressed according to expectations of a dignified life and secure housing. The intersection of multiple disasters - hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, the pandemic, Legal empowerment work is urgent with an official estimate of 3,500 blue tarps - and community numbers that considerably exceed that estimate- and with a slowed-down disaster assistance disbursement process.

At Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico, we are working on a report that documents the outstanding debt to survivors on the Island and the required changes to shift this reality. This IV Towards a Just Recovery Report will analyze how narratives and assistance regarding housing and climate justice are shaping the possibilities of families to stay or return to their lands. Because the risk of displacement is latent - due to unsafe housing and unsuitable living conditions - understanding the role of the government, communities, and building power processes is crucial. This report, a document that has become a trailblazing platform for advocacy changes in its previous years of publishing, will be out in the first two weeks of September.

In preparation for this launch, last week, we had a chance to celebrate the 4th Just Recovery Summit in Puerto Rico. We brought together leaders, organizations, and groups from Puerto Rico and abroad to discuss climate change and the right to housing. This summit is a chance to demonstrate the relevance of these issues today for survivors of past disasters and the right to stay of the whole population.

Meanwhile, we are relaunching our projects at GlobalGiving. Beyond revamping the site, descriptions, and goals, we want to communicate to you and every donor the importance of legal empowerment and disaster legal aid initiatives. Please, stay tuned for more updates on this. 

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Last week Puerto Rico experience an island-wide blackout. In some regions, the power outage lasted for four days. Access to energy is essential for many, particularly for elders and people with disabilities or chronic conditions. The fragility of the energy grid is one of the consequences of neglected disasters. The impact of austerity joined that of major hurricanes. Privatization and negligent management, speculation, and resistance to adopt a climate justice perspective on energy have aggravated the crisis. Three months before the hurricane season starts, we see the phantom of neglect everywhere. With thousands of houses under blue tarps five years after María, only a few thousand families have received adequate assistance to repair or rebuild their houses, and with a worsening tendency to displacement, we need to call the government to act now


While we reiterate our demands of just recovery, we start our disaster readiness journey this month. We will be training lawyers, housing counselors, community leaders, and social workers on the essential legal tools they need to accompany survivors after an emergency. We hope that this workshop will pave the way to reinforce community protocols, given the lack of official plans to prevent, mitigate and attend crises.


Disasters may not be fashionable at this moment. When crises occur, there is a window of support and solidarity that closes too soon, although essential and life-saving. The sequels of disasters - the aggravated precarity- are often unseen. Supporting and donating to Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico and this project shifts that narrative and promotes long-term recovery and climate justice. Donate now. We can do more. 

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Although 2021 did not bring a new active disaster to Puerto Rico, disasters have grown exponentially, feeding on the vulnerabilities of governmental neglect, the multiple crisis, and the isolation of survivors. Data provides a snapshot on the unmet needs: 1. It is still estimated that 14,000-18,000 houses still have provisional blue tarps as roofs, 4 years after hurricane María; 2. Out of 27,000 applicants to housing recovery funds, nly 300 homes have been rebuilt and only 1300 repaired

.Because disasters have a disparate impact that is still palpable, community leaders were recently able to voice their demands and concerns regarding civil rights violations commited by recovery agents in the aftermath of Irma and María. The stories told signal to an unfinished recovery process that threatens not only their homes but also their possibility of dignified living. This is our context and the ground of our commitment.

Beyond first response, disasters have a long term impact in communities, particularly in places where inequality is constant. With your support our Just Recovery program has been able to complete another cycle. This is our fourth year accopanying disaster survivors. In 2021 we gathered nearly 550 participations in know your right workshops and not Disasters have a long term impact in communities, particularly in places where inequality is constant.

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Organization Information

Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico

Location: San Juan - Puerto Rico
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @ayudalegalpr
Project Leader:
Ariadna Godreau
San Juan , Puerto Rico
$15,900 raised of $50,000 goal
57 donations
$34,100 to go
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