PHOTOS: For Puerto Rico’s poor, hurricane was heavy blow

APTOPIX_Puerto_Rico_One_Year_After_Maria_Photo_Essay_01401 In this Sept. 9, 2018 photo, Gilberto Cosme Rodriguez takes one of his 10 a day asthma treatments to help him breathe, inside his home still covered with a tarp after FEMA assistance failed to cover the cost of fixing his roof that was torn off by last year's Hurricane Maria in Naranjito, Puerto Rico. Rodriguez, who has one working lung due to pulmonary fibrosis triggered by the use of chemicals when he worked in construction, said every morning he needs treatment to get out of bed. On a pension of $300 dollars, Rodriguez said it's barely enough to buy medicine. "I start the day like a dead person because of this lung problem," he said. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Puerto_Rico_One_Year_After_Maria_Photo_Essay_16868 In this Sept. 8, 2018 photo, Alma Morales Rosario poses for a portrait between the beams of her home being rebuilt after it was destroyed by Hurricane Maria one year ago in the San Lorenzo neighborhood of Morovis, Puerto Rico. Rosario, who is incapacitated by diabetes and a blood disease, took a loan to upgrade her home before the storm hit, and lost everything. After the storm, Rosario rented a home until she could no longer afford it on her monthly $598 dollar pension and now splits her time living with her mother and daughter. Rosario said she already spent her $7,000 dollars of FEMA aid, and is now using money from a relative, who is also helping her with the labor of rebuilding her home, but says she knows there's not enough money for all the materials. "I hope with God's help to have the house closed on the outside, walls and ceiling in November. But if it's not possible, I'll make a room with the wood I have under the structure and live there until I can finish it. I never thought this was going to happen to me," she said. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Puerto_Rico_One_Year_After_Maria_Photo_Essay_51408 In this Sept. 7, 2018 photo, a woman with her child receives free diapers and shower gel, as she and others line up for food and other donated staples from the MARC Ministry, a non-profit charity in Manati, Puerto Rico. Charity workers say most of the needy who come to them are ill pensioners, seniors, students and the unemployed. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Puerto_Rico_One_Year_After_Maria_Photo_Essay_06383 In this Sept. 8, 2018 photo, a home that was abandoned after Hurricane Maria hit one year ago stands full of furniture in the San Lorenzo neighborhood of Morovis, Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans living below the poverty line were pushed to the brink of despair by the storm, struggling for food, housing and medicine. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Puerto_Rico_One_Year_After_Maria_Photo_Essay_62980 In this Sept. 8, 2018 photo, farm worker Angel Reyes gets a haircut by barber Luis Otero, who offers his service at a bus stop for $7 dollars, on the road between Morovis to Orocovis, Puerto Rico. Reyes said the storm broke his home's windows and part of the roof, but FEMA denied him rebuilding assistance, so he decided to take his government pension in one lump sum, instead of monthly payments. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Puerto_Rico_One_Year_After_Maria_Photo_Essay_31731 In this Sept. 8, 2018 photo, vegetation grows over a car that was abandoned one year ago during Hurricane Maria in the San Lorenzo neighborhood of Morovis, Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico's governor said that his administration has adopted new measures to better prepare for a disaster like Maria although he warned of limitations given the U.S. territory's economic crisis. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Puerto_Rico_One_Year_After_Maria_Photo_Essay_66099 In this Sept. 7, 2018 photo, Elia de Jesus Acebedo waits in line for donated food and other basic goods from the MARC Ministry, a non-profit charity in Manati, Puerto Rico. Acebedo, 67, said she and her sister rented a home that was destroyed by Hurricane Maria one year go, leaving them with nothing. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Puerto_Rico_One_Year_After_Maria_Photo_Essay_16950 In this Sept. 12, 2018 photo, a piano stands in a restaurant destroyed one year ago by Hurricane Maria in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. Businesses closures due to the storm's destruction, or bankruptcy after Maria's passage, triggered 15,000 requests for local government subsidies from people who lost their jobs, most of them in the tourism sector after sea-side establishments were wiped out. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Puerto_Rico_One_Year_After_Maria_Photo_Essay_17612 In this Sept. 13, 2018 photo, a girl helps her mother carry donated food and other staples handed out to needy residents by the MARC Ministry, a non-profit charity in Manati, Puerto Rico. Charity workers say the number of needy lining up for food has doubled since the storm, and there are days when they run out of food. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Puerto_Rico_One_Year_After_Maria_Photo_Essay_16408 In this Sept. 7, 2018 photo, a Coca-Cola trailer destroyed one year ago by Hurricane Maria stands on the side of the road in Orocovis, Puerto Rico. Researchers from George Washington University hired by Puerto Rico's government estimated in August 2018 that 2,975 people had died because of Maria in the six months after landfall, a number Puerto Rico accepted as official. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Puerto_Rico_One_Year_After_Maria_Photo_Essay_19273 In this Sept. 7, 2018 photo, a man with back problems uses his cane to carry food and other staples donated from from the MARC Ministry, a non-profit charity in Manati, Puerto Rico. After Hurricane Maria hit on Sept. 20, 2017, thousands of Puerto Ricans living below the poverty line were pushed to the brink of despair. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Puerto_Rico_One_Year_After_Maria_Photo_Essay_98965 In this Sept. 8, 2018 photo, Ramon Alicea Burgos washes a plate under his partially rebuilt home, unfinished for lack of funds in the mountain town of Barranquitas, Puerto Rico. Burgos, 82, said he does not want to go to a retirement home for seniors, adding that he's strong and his father lived to be 106. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Puerto_Rico_One_Year_After_Maria_Photo_Essay_08352 In this Sept. 8, 2018 photo, Ramon Alicea Burgos uses a flashlight to read the time on his wall clock in a temporary wooden room he built under the structure of his partially re-built home, unfinished and without electricity due to lack of money, in the mountain town of Barranquitas, Puerto Rico. Burgos, 82, said a local doctor is collecting donations from fellow doctors and patients to help him raise money to finish his home. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Puerto_Rico_One_Year_After_Maria_Photo_Essay_46543 In this Sept. 8, 2018 photo, Ramon Alicea Burgos walks past his palm tree, with its top broken off one year ago by Hurricane Maria one outside his partially rebuilt home in the mountain town of Barranquitas, Puerto Rico. Burgos, 82, partially repaired his home with $14,000 in aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and $6,000 he had saved since his wife died four years ago, but says the funds are insufficient after a spike building material costs. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
In this Sept. 8, 2018 photo, Ramon Alicea Burgos puts his shoes on as he leaves the temporary room he built under his partially re-built home, unfinished for lack of funds, in the mountain town of Barranquitas, Puerto Rico. Burgos lives off $352 a month in welfare and food stamps. A neighbor provides him water. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Puerto_Rico_One_Year_After_Maria_Photo_Essay_94951 This Sept. 8, 2018 photo shows some of Ramon Alicea Burgos' belongings inside a temporary room he built under the structure of his partially built home, unfinished for lack of funds, in the mountain town of Barranquitas, Puerto Rico. The 82-year-old widower said Hurricane Maria destroyed everything he had. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
APTOPIX_Puerto_Rico_One_Year_After_Maria_Photo_Essay_03579 In this Sept. 11, 2018 photo, a lone wall from a home destroyed one year ago by Hurricane Maria stands in the mountain town of Naranjito, Puerto Rico. Maria destroyed over 200,000 homes on the island, according to the Puerto Rico House of Representatives Public Security Commission President Felix Lasalle. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
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NARANJITO, Puerto Rico (AP) — After Hurricane Maria hit on Sept. 20, 2017, thousands of Puerto Ricans living below the poverty line were pushed to the brink of despair — struggling for food and housing, diapers and medicine.

Gilberto Cosme Rodriguez, 73, gets a $320 monthly pension and spends nearly all on the asthma treatments he must take 10 times a day because he has one working lung after the other failed due to what he says was the use of chemicals at a job making construction materials.

His home in the northern mountain town of Naranjito is still covered with a blue tarp because Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance did not cover the cost of fixing his roof following the storm.

Without more federal aid, or money left over from his pension, he sees no immediate prospect of moving out of the only habitable space in his home, an enclosed balcony still missing windows from Maria.

“I start the day like a dead person because of this lung problem,” he said.

Alma Morales Rosario, who suffers from diabetes and a blood disease, had taken out a loan to upgrade her home before it was destroyed by the storm, leaving her homeless and in debt.

After Maria, Rosario rented a home until she could no longer afford it on her monthly pension of $598. She now splits time between the homes of her mother and her daughter in the central mountain town of Morovis.

Rosario said she received $7,000 in FEMA aid, but it ran out, and she is now using money and other help from a relative to try to finish reconstruction of her house.

“I hope with God’s help to have the house closed on the outside, walls and ceiling, in November,” she said. “I never thought that this was going to happen to me.”

In the northern city of Manati, lines for food and other staples handed out by the MARC Ministry, a nonprofit charity, have doubled in length since Maria.

Elia de Jesus Acevedo, 67, was among the hundreds waiting in line for food and other staples from MARC workers this month. She said the home she had rented along with her sister was destroyed by Hurricane Maria, leaving them with nothing.

Ramon Alicea Burgos, an 82-year-old retiree, lives in a provisional space made from wood planks and cinderblocks on the former lot of his hurricane-ruined home in the central town of Barranquitas.

He partially repaired the home with $14,000 in aid from FEMA, but he says the funds were insufficient due to a surge in the price of building materials after the storm.

Burgos lives on $352 a month in welfare and food stamps. A neighbor provides him water, and his makeshift home, which lacks electricity, is lighted at night with a flashlight. Clothes and towels are draped on plastic hangers dangling from the cinderblock walls.

Burgos says he’s strong and does not want to go to a retirement home for seniors, adding that his father lived to be 106. A local doctor is helping to collect donations from fellow physicians and patients to help finish the home.

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