Here's How to Help People in Puerto Rico Right Now

The entire island of Puerto Rico, home to 3.4 million Americans, is still without power after a direct hit from Hurricane Maria, the fifth-strongest storm to ever hit the United States. Cell phone and internet service has also largely been lost and it could take six months for the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, which is $9 billion in debt, to restore electricity. Puerto Rico is now facing disastrous flooding. “It was as if a 50- to 60-mile-wide tornado raged across Puerto Rico, like a buzz saw,” NOAA meteorologist Jeff Weber told Vox.
The death toll is reportedly at 13 on the island, with a total death toll of 32 across the affected islands, including Dominica, the French territory of Guadeloupe, and the US Virgin Islands. Maria is now nearing Turks and Caicos, and that number is seen as likely to rise as rescue efforts continue. As of Friday morning, the full impacts of Maria on Puerto Rico remain unknown. FEMA has begun delivering assistance, and an airport tarmac opened on Friday to limited emergency assistance flights; Donald Trump has declared his intention to visit the “totally obliterated” island, where I’m sure he’ll be well-received.
“There’s a humanitarian emergency here in Puerto Rico,” Gov. Ricardo Rosselló told the Associated Press. “This is an event without precedent.” The AP offered a glimpse:
The loss of power left residents hunting for gas canisters for cooking, collecting rainwater or steeling themselves mentally for the hardships to come in the tropical heat. Some contemplated leaving the island.
“You cannot live here without power,” said Hector Llanos, a 78-year-old retired New York police officer who planned to leave Saturday for the U.S. mainland to live there temporarily.
Like many Puerto Ricans, Llanos does not have a generator or gas stove. “The only thing I have is a flashlight,” he said, shaking his head. “This is never going to return to normal.”
“Cities or states that receive federal emergency aid have to provide some sort of a matching fee—I think the idea is to get that waived,” New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito told Jezebel in a phone call. Mark-Viverito has made contact with her family on the island, who are safe.
“In Puerto Rico we have this issue of the Jones Act, which means that transporting anything to the island by boat has to be on [U.S. flag ships], which makes it much more expensive to transport stuff to Puerto Rico, so we’re asking for a waiver for the Jones Act to add flexibility. There’s also the issue obviously of the fiscal crisis,” she said.
“We are in a serious crisis. The priority right now can’t be to pay back the bondholders when we’ve got people right now with no electricity or running water.”
Many other people in the US are still unable to get in touch with relatives on the island, including Jennifer Lopez, who released a video Thursday night asking people to donate to the efforts of First Lady of Puerto Rico Beatriz Rosselló.
In addition to the First Lady’s fund, there are some other resources for people interested in helping out.  On Thursday, the Hispanic Federation, in partnership with Mark-Viverito, Mayor Bill DeBlasio, Reps. Nydia Velázquez and Adriano Espaillat, launched “Unidos”: A Hurricane Relief Fund for Hurricane Maria Victims in Puerto Rico, where 100 percent of the proceeds will go to hurricane relief and recovery efforts.
“At some point the idea is to identify local grassroots groups, which we will vet, so that the money that is collected here can be directed to the people, as opposed to giving it to the government to figure out what to do,” Mark-Viverito told Jezebel.
“We have to be mindful that the infrastructure on the island is seriously compromised, so if people want to volunteer and go down, there’s a logistics [issue]—where are they going to be housed, where are they going to get food from, how are they going to get around? The best way to be helpful is to donate, and in a limited way, collecting goods that might be emergency goods that we can get down there. So this is really complicated.”
If you live in the Miami area, the Puerto Rican Leadership Council is accepting donations of nonperishable food, water, and clothing at several locations beginning on Friday, with details and timing over at the Miami HeraldThe Miami Foundation created the US Caribbean Strong Relief Fund to raise money supporting hurricane relief efforts in Caribbean nations and territories affected by Irma and Maria. Philadelphia-area nonprofit El Concilio has launchedUnidos PA’ Puerto Rico to raise money for hurricane relief. The Salvation Army is accepting hurricane relief donations, and GlobalGiving has a Caribbean Hurricane Irma & Maria Relief Fund, which will initially steer funding towards immediate needs like food, clean water, and shelter, and will later shift toward supporting local organizations’ recovery efforts. Volunteer disaster relief organization All Hands is headed back to the US Virgin Islands for Hurricane Irma and Maria Response, and there is a crowdfunding effort by the Dominica London High Commission to raise money for basic relief materials on Dominica, which has been left in “war zone” conditions; you can donate to that effort hereConPRmetidos, a Puerto Rico-based nonprofit, is accepting donations here.
If you’re in Puerto Rico or any of the islands hit by Maria, and are able to safely make contact in the coming days, please reach out to the email below to tell us your story.
UPDATE: We’ll continue to add charities here as necessary—another good fundraiser was spearheaded by former pro basketball player Tim Duncan and has already raised over $2.6 million for relief in the US Virgin Islands, where he grew up. The entire island of St. Croix is currently without power, according to US Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Map


My Book Reviews of 2017

Get Well Soon by Marie-Sabine Roger, translated by Frank Wynne ::  How good is this book? Well, I'd just moved... and found time to read it among the boxes & furniture placement. In spare, first person, translated from the French prose, Ms Roger presents a widower, Jean-Pierre, in hospital, recently fished out of the Seine. At some point in his recovery, he decides to journal this experience -- and some of his life -- which forms the novel. His present world, includes a teenage girl (also a patient) who borrows his laptop to update her Facebook page), the young policeman who brought him to the hospital, a young French rent-boy who saved his life, nurse Myriam, old friends via email, and disconnected family.

Our hero is basically a lonely old codger, now with broken bones & a broken spirit to match... and he's pretty sure he wasn't trying to kill himself. But he does not know why he fell off a bridge, into the Seine, in the middle of the night.

The journal format tracks his physical and spiritual healing. But not sweetly... one is not overwhelmed by the wonderfulness of life. No, this mish-mash of characters each have hidden lives, which frequently irritates or confuses the others. Revelations are deliberate, interesting, and not completely unexpected.

I liked it so much I was surprised & disappointed to find myself at the end. I'm almost tempted to read it in French. Thanks to Edelweiss & Pushkin Press for the opportunity to preview this ARC. *****

Sourdough  by Robin Sloan :: Mr. Penumbra... made my Top 10 list that year, so I've been eagerly awaiting Sloan's next. Sourdough satisfies in a similar way. Diverse areas: robotics, food preparation & selling, bread baking, long-distance "love," restaurant wars... Lots going on, interesting characters & situations, in-depth (yet interesting) info, techie female 1st person perspective. Made me hungry, wished I could try some of the bread & soups described.  Not necessarily an inferior book to his first, but because I don't cook and I do read, this one seems slightly slighter.

But I read to the end & didn't skip, so I'll say his writing was engagingly good. Please, sir, I'd like some more!   Thank you for the opportunity to preview this book. ****

The Thieves of Manhattan by Adam Langer :: Interesting meta-fiction novel of the publishing world scandals of seven years ago. NY inside industry inside gossip, funny eponyms ("atwood, chabon, lish, daisy), con games with confident men, love stories, scandals, revenge, meta-art world, creative use of the Dewey Decimal System. Very readable, amusing aesthetic. Went quickly and I read most of the pages. ***1/2

Letters to His Neighbor by Marcel Proust :: It's quite short, mostly letters complaining about the noise. But for someone like me, who studies Proust & his work, an fascinating sidebar incorporating his over-the-top letter-writing style, his pickiness, his flattery skills. Short, but fun, interesting intro by Tadié, lovely translation by L. Davis. ****  Thanks to Norton, New Directions, & Edelweiss for this ARC.

IQ by Joe Ide :: I really enjoyed this debut novel of an LA PI. Good characterization, excellent writing & dialogue, unfamiliar situations & bad guys with bad dogs, good guys with good hearts, everyone just trying to get through their lives. IQ's love for Marcus shines through, informing his life. Will read more if a series is in the works. Or if not.

(I know IQ is a fictional character, but I would like him to get the GED or take classes. He would too. Weird, I know, but such a great character. Not flimsy, great negotiator.) ****

The Proust Screenplay: A La Recherche du Temps Perdu by Harold Pinter :: Pinter and friends take on a daunting task here... Distilling Proust's 7-volume masterwork into a two-hour movie. I've read the whole book, I lead a group that's reading it with me again, so I got it, I loved it, I was visualizing his scene descriptions and quick-flash images. So all I can say is-- Is Julie Taymor or Mira Nair available? And that British costume designer who wins all the Oscars. It wouldn't be that hard, it wouldn't make any money, but boy, would it ever give you Proust-at-a-glance. *****

Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter :: Strange, wonderful, beautifully imagined & written. Not easy, but worth it, and spot-on. Kudos. ****


** Donate to Houstonians **

The Houston Food Bank looked good to me. They are already established in town & know the population and reviews are all excellent.

Baker Ripley helps low-income families, is already on the ground, and was mentioned as worthy of support by Lin-Manuel Miranda (creator of Hamilton, the show). See video below.

Bread Of Life, Inc. via Beyoncé (who's from Houston)
Texas Southern University
Greater Houston Community Foundation

Where to Donate to Harvey Relief—Beyond the Red Cross

More options here.. disaster philanthropy

On Friday, Houston Area Urban League got back online, and is now accepting donations for its Harvey relief efforts. In the meantime, affiliated Greater Washington Urban League has sprung into action. “Too often, during major disasters like this, the most vulnerable are ignored and left to fend for themselves,”President & CEO George H. Lambert said. Resources will be relayed immediately to the Houston Urban League. “We’re here to alleviate that burden as best we can, and look forward to helping our people in Houston do all they can do to ensure resources reach those most in need.”

Charity Navigator, an organization that evaluates and ranks charities, recommends

The legit crowdfunding website Global Giving is halfway to raising $5 million to provide “food, water, and medicine, as well as long-term recovery assistance.”

Choose a crowdfunding campaign to support at GoFundMe.

Other Food Banks:
Feeding Texas is a statewide nonprofit that coordinates and integrates with state and federal relief efforts. NPR also collected a list of Texas food banks in areas hit by the storm: Houston Food Bank, Galveston Food Bank, Food Bank of the Golden Crescent (Victoria), Corpus Christi Food Bank, Southeast Texas Food Bank (Beaumont), Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley (Pharr), Brazos Valley Food Bank (Bryan), Central Texas Food Bank (Austin), San Antonio Food Bank.

Local Organizations
The Homeless Period Project gets menstrual supplies to homeless people, and those displaced by the storm. (Two other local organizations—Aquí Estamos and Neta—are collecting funds for these efforts, too.)

Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund was organized by Houston mayor Sylvester Turner, under the umbrella of the Greater Houston Community Foundation.

S.H.A.P.E. Community Center is a community organization in Houston that works to “improve the quality of life for people of African descent (all people).”

Texas Diaper Bank distributes to babies, seniors, and disabled people.

Texas Workers Relief Fund is a charitable branch of the Texas AFL-CIO that “has been established to assist workers and their families in their time of need.”

Vulnerable Populations:
Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County is a community organization that works to protect the homeless and end homelessness.

Living Hope Wheelchair Association accepts monetary donations as well as donations of used wheelchairs.

Portlight focuses on helping people with disabilities, including in disaster relief.

South Texas Human Rights Center works to protect immigrant families.

Transgender Foundation of America, Houston is helping vulnerable trans, intersex, and genderqueer people affected by the storm
The Way Home works to end homelessness in Houston—they’ve partnered with several shelters in the area.

For Animals
Animal Defense League of Texas accepts monetary donations and supplies—donated in person in San Antonio or via Amazon wishlist.

Austin Pets Alive has taken in hundreds of lost or displaced pets. They’re accepting monetary and material donations.

SPCA of Texas is helping coordinate animal rescue efforts.

Houston Humane Society is accepting monetary donations to help local animals affected by the storm.

Also Houston SPCA, and the San Antonio Humane Society

AmeriCares provides emergency supplies and medical care.

ICNARelief, also known as Muslims for Humanity, does a wide range of charitable work, including disaster relief.

Other organizations include the Salvation Army, Samaritan’s Purse and Heart to Heart International (coordinates aid distribution and offers medical support).

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief has been around for more than 50 years, offering food, water, and help in rebuilding efforts.

Team Rubicon “unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams.”

United Way of Greater Houston addresses immediate needs like food and shelter as well as long-term recovery.

Red Cross Text, Phone, Snail Mail :: Red Cross Online
Text HARVEY to 90999 to help in TX--$10 goes straight to Red Cross.