It’s a hot afternoon on the Plaza of the old Mayagüez town; Jorge can feel the sun’s rays burning his skin and the hot dry air running through his lungs. A drop of his sweated forehead lands on the oven hot cement sidewalk right next to his makeshift cardboard bed. He lies down and dries his forehead with a used napkin he found on the floor. He closes his eyes for what seem a minute or two but opens them when a car horn bothers his ear. On the corner of his eyes he notices something shining; he gets up and grabs the quarter dropped by someone a quarter for him is a life savings grant. He thinks that maybe he should look around for more money to fill his stomach so he continues to walk down the Méndez Vigo Street until he arrives at interesting painted building with strange but warming colors. White, orange and a light blue flooded the walls of the building while white and orange columns kept the balcony’s metal roof at bay. This colorful building with barred windows is known as Casa Del Peregrino.
Casa del Peregrino is a project funded by private companies and the municipality to give home for the homeless. The first project was founded in 1996 in the town of Aguadilla, and later the same organization created another project called Project San José here in Mayagüez.
This nonprofit organization was founded with the purpose of satisfying the necessities of the homeless victims although it primary services is providing them a house to live in, the organization also provides services like health, nutrition, education and employment. Victims here in Mayagüez include people with AIDS, veterans, domestic violence victims and elderly people.
It is here in Casa Del Peregrino that Jorge meets Isaura Mercado. Isaura was born in Aguada she’s a skinny, five and a half feet tall woman, on her late twenties with a light colored skin. Her eyes have a dark hazel color with wrinkles at the end of each eye. She had a big mouth that ran from cheek to cheek every time she smile with her perfectly align teeth. Her hair was dyed with a two tone color, dark brown with blonde tips.
Jorge was homeless and Isaura gave Jorge a place to stay here in Casa Del Peregrino. That is what Isaura does she is a case manager in Casa Del Peregrino.
When I first met her wardrobe complemented her physical appearance she had a brown shirt that matches her eyes and white paints with dark brown shoes. Her hair was held together with a purple hair bun. The first thing she said was:
“Right this way, I’ll show you around” – Isaura said.
I still remember her voice because it had a warm and motherly like feeling. That is what the homeless victims find so appealing about her.
She studied a bachelor’s degree in ambient technology in the University of Puerto Rico Aguadilla campus and now she returned to the university to study a master’s in social clinic work because her bachelor’s degrees did not help her in her current job.
Isaura started working at casa Del Peregrino because the mother of one of her best friends asked her to join Casa Del Peregrino. She began in a data entry position, entering data in the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) but she was later offered a position in Case Management little did she know that her life will change forever when she stared helping others. She is now addicted to helping others, specially the homeless. Her job is to find and interview each homeless victim and convince them to stay in Casa Del Peregrino and leave their addictions behind.
“It is not an easy job because we have rules here and the homeless victims do not like rules. They want to live by they own rules so we have to persuade them into staying and make them realize that we are a better option.” said Isaura.
Some of the rules for staying in Casa Del Peregrino are that the addicts have to stay clean, no drug use, they have to be back at 7pm and get up at 7am, the have to eat at a certain hours in the day and be willing to take drug test.
“At the end of the day I am happy with my work, we celebrate the victims birthdays and holidays so we can make them enjoy the stay, while at the same time giving them more than a house a place they can call home.” said Isaura.