San Juan inaugurates a new social services oasis in Río Piedras
By Richard Gutiérrez
The responsibility social workers carry is a large one, one that seems to be growing larger by the year. San Juan, as Puerto Rico’s most populous city, requires a significant quantity of social services, and now citizens of the island capital will be able to request psychosocial services from the brand new office of the Social Work Program, which is attached to the Department for Social and Community Development and located in the Río Piedras Marketplace.
The initiative seeks to meet the needs of the population in the Río Piedras sector, as well as strengthen the social economic development of the community. It was announced by San Juan Mayor Miguel A. Romero Lugo this week in a ceremony in which he inaugurated the new office, which is part of his public policy focused on expanding and bringing social work services closer to residents in a comprehensive way, along with using municipal and commonwealth resources to serve the neediest communities.
The municipality’s investment to establish and put the office into operation is $181,886.62, coming from federal Community Development Block Grant program funds, and ordinary funds.
“In light of the Social Work Month, which is commemorated in October, and as part of our work plan … to revitalize the community in Rio Piedras, we are promoting self-management and development in our San Juan families, from a perspective of empowerment and within their own communities, with the end of bettering their quality of life,” Romero Lugo said Tuesday. “Through our social work professionals assigned to the new office in the marketplace we are committed to bring the services to those people who need it, and at the same time bring prevention services directly to San Juan communities.”
In more specific terms, the Social Work Program office offers a full range of services in an integrated way and as part of a strategic plan to address all needs of families or individuals, whether they request the services or are referred to by the community. Some of the services are outside the realm of social work services: psychological services, visits to check on the community’s needs, intervention throughout emergencies when people’s mental and physical health is at its most vulnerable point, providing food during an emergency, and assistance in legal cases where Law 408 applies relating to mental health in Puerto Rico, to name a few.
The services available through the Social Work Program reinforce other services provided by the Department of Social Development, through three emergency coordinators in weekly shifts who are on call to attend to any situation that emerges outside of the regular schedule, including Saturdays and Sundays.
Romero Lugo urged the people of San Juan to utilize the services. He also reaffirmed the important work that is performed by social workers for the development and well-being of children, youths, middle aged adults and elders throughout the island.
“With care and dedication we have established this new office, and the call we make to all San Juan residents is to go to it, get oriented and use the resources we have available, led by a group of social work professionals, of whom we are more proud than ever,” the mayor said. “We are proud of the contribution, commitment and ethics with which they promote a positive transformation of our society every day, promoting the comprehensive well-being of human beings, social justice, as well as the empowerment of communities. To all of them, too, my congratulations on Social Work Month.”
The initiative of the new facility is part of a broad development plan, drawn up under the Romero Lugo administration to transform Paseo de Diego and the university area of Río Piedras, with a focus on successfully resuming commercial activity and on housing. Currently, several initiatives are being developed in the area, among which the Paseo de las Artes stands out, along with the construction of a diagnostic and treatment center with an investment of $10.5 million from American Rescue Plan Act funds; the construction of the new housing complex, De Diego Village; the remodeling of the Plaza de la Convalecencia; and the construction of a temporary housing shelter in the old Empresas Díaz building for women and families experiencing an emergency.
Likewise, as a result of a program of tax decrees and exemptions from paying license fees, new businesses, including the Nest Hotel, have already been established in Río Piedras.