Column: $60,000 ‘casitas’ and giant awnings: Caruso, Bass pitch cheaper homeless units
Domingo Dominguez was a man on the streets of San Juan, eating his favorite breakfast taco and chatting with friends.
“I was on the street with my mom this morning,” Dominguez, 30, said, “and my little brother came running up and said, ‘Mom, my girlfriend just asked me if I want to split a cab.’”
He then told his mom, who was too busy to ask, “Don’t worry about me, just get ready so we can go to work.”
Dominguez, who doesn’t have a place to sleep, was one of the lucky ones.
Earlier this month, a group of advocates and leaders of San Juan’s homeless community gathered in a conference room at the City University of Puerto Rico to help write a resolution addressing the homeless problem in the U.S. territory.
A few months ago, an estimated 1,500 homeless people slept under the hot summer sun in a “city within a city” built of shipping containers in a public park.
The city’s leaders called it a public safety operation while its residents claimed it was a “temple to sin.”
But the city of a mere 1.1 million people is finding itself at a crossroads as a growing number of residents turn to the nonprofit group Shelter Island Inc., based in the island’s capital, San Juan, for services to stay afloat.
HOMELESS POPULATION AT A CROSSROADS
In San Juan, there are now more than 1,300 homeless people, according to a study by researchers at the International Business Research Group in New Jersey. In 2014, about 4,350 people reported living on the streets. The island, which has about 2.2 million people, is at a crossroads as a growing homeless population has grown to 1,290.
Officials in San Juan said they do not know how many of its homeless residents are part of a larger movement of so-called urban refugees, many of whom have fled the violence in their homelands.