Intercambios has an opportunity to emerge from the devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria stronger than ever. By transforming our headquarters into a safe space to offer lifesaving care and emergency relief, Intercambios will ensure that the most vulnerable people in Puerto Rico, including people who use drugs, people with HIV, and people who face other health disparities, can access urgent assistance now and never face another crisis alone.
Since Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Intercambios' clients have struggled to meet basic survival needs. Our clients already face multiple barriers to good health, such as substance use, HIV/hepatitis C, mental health issues, discrimination and stigma due to LGBT status, and other factors; the instability resulting from the hurricanes has only complicated these challenges. Worse, we are still working around the clock to locate isolated participants, as roads are blocked and communication is limited.
Intercambios will rapidly repair our main office and transform it into a safe space, enabling participants to access emergency relief services, such as basic necessities, shelter, food, and other supplies. In addition, we will be able to continue offering our core HIV and harm reduction services. Crucially, we will also prepare for the future by offering participants refuge from storms and other crises, making us a known and trusted community resource during future emergencies.
Intercambios serves a large and growing population of vulnerable people (over 800 clients) across 7 municipalities in eastern Puerto Rico. It is crucial that we offer participants the safety and shelter they deserve in future disasters. Moreover, we must be able to offer our lifesaving services without interruption, no matter what challenges come our way. Through this effort to rebuild and fortify, we will establish ourselves as the agency to whom participants turn when they need help most.
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