Ivette Perez Toro, special assistant to the Department of Family secretary, blamed the growing number of homeless women in Puerto Rico on domestic violence and the financial crisis. ‘‘Unemployment has had a domino effect,’’ she said. ‘‘They lose their homes, their cars.’’
As a U.S. territory, Puerto Rico received $16 million in federal funds this past year to target homelessness. Although a big increase from the $3 million the island received in the early 2000s, far more is needed, Perez said.
Some 1,500 homeless people a year alone visit The Hospice of Jesus in San Juan, said Edwin Otero, director of volunteer and external services. ‘‘We have to keep looking for more resources to deal with an increase in people,’’ he said.
Caridad Colon is among dozens of people who stands in line for food at the hospice daily. ‘‘Just like them, if I don’t come here, I don’t eat,’’ she said.
Colon said when she first arrived at the program, she couldn’t talk when workers asked her questions. She could only cry. ‘‘To go from being a completely independent person to one completely dependent on someone for everything, including food, that changes your perspective,’’ she said.
Without work for eight months, she’s still looking after applying for jobs as a cashier, a security guard and a maintenance worker.
‘‘Once I get a job, I can put my bills in order and take charge of my life again,’’ she said.