San Juan- A Thanksgiving meal featuring turkey, rice, bread and dessert was served yesterday to a group of homeless and needy people in Plaza de Convalescence located in one of San Juan’s neediest neighborhoods. Among the volunteers, KC Royals’ outfielder Alfredo Escalera participated by serving meals, promoting voluntarism and inspiring the meals recipients with words of encouragement. At the end of the event, more than 100 homeless individuals were provided with a Thanksgiving meal and the hope of a helping hand. ”I love to participate in this event, it is just gratifying to be able to share happiness on such a special day. I have so much to be thankful for, that participating in these events is just a way for me to give back,” stated Alfredo Escalera at the end of the event.
In San Juan, homeless citizens can be seen resting on park benches, under bridges and pleading for money at stoplights or in commercial doorways. According to the nonprofit entity “Puerto Rico Pro Homeless Coalition”, more than 2,000 homeless individuals are living in Puerto Rico. “For years I have been impressed by the homeless problem. I wonder how much personal suffering a person needs to endure before deciding that his best choice is to live in the streets”, Escalera said.
The island’s homeless population has severely escalated in the last few years. Even though many of these individuals are addicted to drugs, a significant number are people who have been displaced from their standard of living due to their economic situation. The Puerto Rican economy is favoring homelessness due to the pernicious fiscal situation that involves a striking 18 percent unemployment rate, which is significantly higher than any other state. Adding to this difficulty, the Puerto Rico’s home foreclosure rate has been increasingly climbing over the last few years and has doubled if compared to the yearly foreclosure rate from 10 years ago.
“It’s frustrating. You feel powerless when seemingly productive citizens, are living in the streets and unable to contribute to society”, Escalera commented…“Sharing a moment with these individuals during Thanksgiving Day means the World to them and even more to me”. The volunteers participating in these events have been donating their time and effort for more than a decade and have witnessed the struggles of these individuals.
Escalera has committed himself to participating in this event for years to come and to ensure that more volunteers participate in assisting the most disadvantaged people in the San Juan’s community.