Chelsea Collaborative Opens Its Doors as Puerto Rico Welcoming Center

This fall, the Chelsea Collaborative was proud to lead the effort to establish the Puerto Rico Welcoming Center in Chelsea as a one-stop support center for newly arriving Puerto Ricans who have come to Chelsea to start over. This was an emergency expansion of services we prioritized in support of families seeking refuge and stability after losing everything to Hurrican Maria. We were able to hire a full-time Case Manager to specialize in working with Puerto Rican evacuees and build relationships during their first six months in Chelsea, similar to a refugee resettlement program. To date, we have served more than 300 people.

Whether their stays in Chelsea will be temporary or permanent, these families require assistance navigating public systems and benefits – signing up for school, securing housing and employment, accessing healthcare and/or legal aid, and getting necessities such as food and clothing. Many also need social and emotional support and community fellowship – as these disaster survivors have faced near-death experiences, lost their homes and all possessions, seen their homeland became a third world country within 6 hours, and lacked access to food, water, and electricity to meet their basic human needs since Hurricane Maria hit. We are committed to doing whatever we can to provide relief to these families, to offer them comfort and support during this time of need, and welcome them into our community. 

Services provided include:
  • Case Management to newly arriving Puerto Rican families to assess each family’s needs and help secure needed resources and services. Our Case Managers work with each family to develop a goal-oriented plan with action steps necessary to meet their unique needs.
  • Community outreach throughout Chelsea to ensure members of our community are aware of the available resources at the Collaborative so they can help direct evacuees to our offices where they can receive support and services.
  • Ongoing donation collection and distribution to provide Puerto Rican families with food, winter clothing, gift cards, school supplies, monetary stipends, and other resources they may need during their transition. 
  • Support with school enrollment
  • Housing support through temporary shelters, housing applications, etc.
  • Support with applications for public benefits, including SNAP, healthcare, transfer of social security benefits, etc.
  • Referrals to physical and mental health providers
  • Support for families to recover lost documents, including IDs, licenses, etc.
  • FEMA applications for emergency benefits and appeals since many families have had their claims denied already. We follow up with families to check on their claim status, apply for Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA) through FEMA, find a TSA-approved hotel for shelter, and submit any additional information requested by FEMA.
  • Referrals to free legal aid
  • Connection to work and educational opportunities including assessment of skills, job search support, connections to training programs, and support for college students to transfer to college or university programs in the Greater Boston area. 
  • Ongoing, flexible supports depending on each family's needs. These include: transportation to doctor’s or benefits appointments, sitting down with school officials, providing translation, searching for housing, etc.
  • Connection to the full range of programs and services available to them at the Chelsea Collaborative and beyond, including community organizing, leadership training, youth employment programs, arts and cultural activities, immigration and citizenship programs, ESL classes, computer classes, and more. It is our goal that regardless of whether evacuees are staying in Chelsea for the short-term or long-term, they will be active members of this community and have opportunities to get involved to make our city stronger. 

For more information, contact Sylvia Ramirez,