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SAGE Stands with SAGE Puerto Rico Affiliate Amidst Earthquake Devastation

Aid to LGBT elders vital during this crucial time

[New York, NY] SAGE Puerto Rico, a SAGE affiliate since 2018, is rushing to the aid of LGBT elders who are severely suffering after a series of earthquakes that have hit the U.S. commonwealth. SAGE CEO Michael Adams urges supporters to “take the time and give resources that SAGE Puerto Rico needs to provide vital services and mental health supports to LGBT elders on the southernmost part of the island.” The towns of Cabo Rojo, Lajas, San German, Guayanilla, Guanica, Penuelas were hit hardest and continue to be impacted by the multiple earthquakes occurring every day. These towns have a number of older people and many of them identify as LGBT. For example, in Penuelas, of the roughly 30,000+ residents, approximately 80% are older than 65.

Wilfred Labiosa, the Executive Director of Waves Ahead and head of SAGE Puerto Rico, reports that LGBT elders are severely suffering from both physical and mental health.

“The anxiety and despair are increasing, as the earthquakes continue to rock our communities,” said Labiosa. “From our sites in Cabo Rojo and San Juan, we are mobilizing volunteers to provide mindfulness, mental health first-aid, meditation, creative arts, and case management to LGBT older people. Many are sleeping in the streets, parking lots and makeshift shelters. Some who reside in assisted living facilities were left on their own, as staff left to take care of their own families and homes. We need help in order to continue this lifesaving work.”

SAGE Puerto Rico was launched in direct response to Hurricane Maria, to respond to the needs associated with anxiety and depression experienced by older LGBT people, many of whom were disproportionately impacted by the natural disaster. Following the recent devastating earthquakes, SAGE Puerto Rico is once again on the front lines of first response, providing services to the most vulnerable. According to Labiosa, in addition to gift cards to purchase gas and supplies, our Puerto Rican neighbors are in need of solar flashlights, water filters, toiletries, and other basics. As the organization continues to work on the ground, SAGE will be conducting a supply drive at SAGE Centers located around New York City and with our national network of affiliates. Those interested in donating can do so at sageusa.org/helpsagepuertorico or by emailing waves@wavesahead.org

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