The Casa del Peregrino Aguadilla, Inc. is a non-profit organization committed to identifying, assisting and serving the homeless population in an effort to improve the quality of life, health, education, security and nourishment of its participants. They strive to assist those who are homeless pave a way out of their situation into a better quality of life.
The Casa was established after a local university’s survey analyzed Aguadilla, Puerto Rico’s most pressing social concerns – homelessness attributed to 67%. Carmen Rosario, the current director of the Casa realized the impact of homelessness on the community, and she began to create innovative solutions to alleviate its affects. Partnered with the Civic Club and other local community service organizations, Rosario began to distribute clothing, personal hygiene items, and meals. With dedication and volunteer service, her goal of opening a shelter and expanding services to homeless community was realized on April 23, 1997 when Casa del Peregrino opened its doors. This shelter stands as the only outreach program of its type in their immediate area.
The Casa is open Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 6:30pm. Meals are served three times a day, and counseling is also available with drug and alcohol specialists. They also offer referrals to rehabilitation programs, personal hygiene items, showers, clothing, first-aid, and entertainment. Soon they will open an emergency shelter that offers 20 sleeping spaces.
A myriad of social problems brings the clients to Casa del Peregrino. All the neighboring communities have increasing problems with poverty, unemployment, and high levels of crime. Recent studies have shown that 50% of the population of Puerto Rico lives below the poverty line. There are 60 men and 26 women at the shelter now. The average age of the participant is 35 years old, and the average education level completed is eighth grade. Seventy percent of them are addicted to drugs and thirteen percent of the population is alcohol dependent. About 19% suffer from some form of mental illness, 15% are HIV positive, and 5% have a physical handicap. To date, 15% of the clients are rehabilitated after receiving the services at the Casa.
The shelter has a volunteer director, a paid part-time staff of five, a paid full-time maintenance employee, four AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers, and some volunteers from the community. The mobilization of volunteers is maintained through the renewal of contracts with the VISTA members and recruitment of community members.
Casa del Peregrino continues to strive to help the community alleviate social problems affecting the underserved. They were a JC Penney Golden Rule Award Finalist in 1999 and have also been honored by the University of Interamerican Studies in Puerto Rico. Since its inception in 1997, the quality of life in the homeless population continues to be enriched, and hope is found for those who, in the past, believed all was lost.