• The Star Staff

Housing chief: Mayors are overstating lack of shelter space, not using available funds

Housing Secretary Luis Fernández Trinchet

By John McPhaul


Island Housing Secretary Luis Fernández Trinchet remarked on Thursday on the condition of some shelters serving as refuges such as in the Municipality of Bayamón, where it was said some shelters do not have the space to comply with the demands of physical distancing.

Mayor Ramón Luis Rivera Cruz repurposed Rubén Rodríguez Coliseum as a refuge after it was alleged that the Housing Department facility in Bayamón did not have the space to comply with physical distancing requirements.

“What is strange to me with this whole issue of our shelters is that so far there are 58 people,” Fernández Trinchet said in response to questions from the press. “Of the 324 shelters in Puerto Rico, there are 116 that have a generator and a cistern. We have the same example yesterday in Guayanilla, that the mayor wanted to find another refuge and yet the school that is being used will fit almost 400 people with social distancing and was in perfect condition.”

The secretary insisted that with the shelters available, there is enough space to accommodate refugees in an emergency.

“There is space for about 14,000 people there; that is, there is more than enough space to deal with this crisis,” Fernández Trinchet said. “To think that we are going to have the 324 ready with everything is an ideal world, and I would love it to be there.”

“We cannot complain about the lack of shelter,” he added. “Food is held by people, they have all the protective equipment, protocols are established. Mayors or their assistants were trained. We cannot say that the mayors have not been offered options.”

Fernández Trinchet criticized the fact that only seven of the island’s 78 municipalities have requested funds from the federal Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery program that they could use, among other things, to enable shelters in urban areas.

“Another thing that has not happened, and we were offering it to the mayors from the beginning, was the repossessed houses of the AFV [Housing Finance Authority], so that they could donate them to various people in need,” he added.

Fernández Trinchet said that at the moment only Ponce and Yauco have requested the repossessed homes.

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