If Tania Lozada and her family were still in Puerto Rico, they wouldn't have electricity, her partner would be unemployed, and the girls would have been missing school.
“I am better and my daughters, too,” Lozada said.
Now, they're in a hotel in Clearwater. The eleven members of their family take up three rooms.
In the afternoons they get together to eat, catch up, and sometimes to remember the day that changed everything.
“The wind was really hard,” Meslian Laureano Lozada said choking up. “It like blew everything.”
It has been almost five months since Hurricane Maria hit the island, but the memory is still fresh.
“It was really hard,” Meslian said.
When the hurricane was over, the struggle to survive began.
“That was even worse,” she said.
They remember the long lines, the heat, the thirst.
“You would see people fighting over water bottles because it was very hard to get water,” Meslian said.
Their mom remembers a dark hospital.
“The emergency room didn't have power,” Lozada said.
She pinched her finger before the hurricane, it got infected, and she almost lost it.
“It was chaos,” she said.
She came to the Tampa Bay Area in a humanitarian flight. Her family followed.
“We're together,” Lozada said. “We have a little more hope here.”
‘Together’ and ‘hope’ are two words that mean a lot to this family. Hope is the dialysis treatment her dad is getting in Clearwater.
“I love my island,” Antonio Lozada said. “But if god helps us, we'll settle here.”
Hope is also the job Lozada’s partner and her brother got shortly after moving.
“There are no jobs in Puerto Rico,” Isaac Rosario, Lozada’s partner, said.
They both build pallets for a company in Clearwater. It's tough work, they say, but the more they build, the more money they make.
And they need that money to move out of the hotel and into a house that fits them all.
“Rent is very expensive,” Lozada said.
They're on the waitlist for affordable housing, but so are thousands of others in Tampa Bay. They don't know what they'll do when their FEMA voucher expires in March.
But they go back to those two words: together and hope.
“As long as the family is together, we have a good time anywhere,” Rosario said.
And they have hope that, soon enough, they'll have the stability they came searching for.
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