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For People Experiencing Homelessness in Puerto Rico, A New Approach to Treatment, Reintegration

Hogar del Buen Pastor, a treatment and reintegration center for people experiencing homelessness and substance use disorders, provides holistic care, microbusiness training, and more.


Puerto Rico

Ronald Torres Joglar works in the embroidery microbusiness at Hogar del Buen Pastor. (Photo courtesy of Hogar del Buen Pastor)

Ronald Torres Joglar lost his home after a vertebral fracture disabled him.

“I could not handle the pain,” said Torres, who lived on the streets for a year. “That’s when I began using fentanyl to relieve the pain.” Before that, he hadn’t used drugs for 14 years.

Torres sought help and was referred to the organization Hogar del Buen Pastor – which translates to “Home of the Good Shepherd.” Since then, he said, “They have been a blessing. This is my family. This is my home.”

Founded in 1993, Hogar del Buen Pastor offers a two-year program for people who are experiencing homelessness or substance use disorders. The organization provides these individuals with temporary shelter and rehabilitation services while helping them obtain health care, seek stable employment, and secure adequate housing.

Tere Beard, Hogar del Buen Pastor’s executive director, said the majority of the residents at the center have some type of addiction or mental health condition, while a smaller number have lost their housing due to economic distress.

“Our work goes beyond finding housing,” Beard emphasized. “We have seen people who have completed other programs, have found housing, and months later are back on the streets because their psychological and emotional shortcomings remained unattended, or the trauma that triggered them, causing them to lose their home once more.”

A holistic approach

Focused on a holistic approach, Hogar del Buen Pastor works to ensure that their therapies work for everyone. Since its foundation, the center has integrated alternative therapies such as acupuncture into its work, and aimed to further spiritual growth while respecting individual religious affiliations.

Direct Relief has been supporting Hogar del Buen Pastor’s work for several years. In 2019, the center received a grant of more than $370,000 to recruit psychologists, case managers, psychiatrists, and other health professionals to expand their services. In 2021, Direct Relief provided a second $400,000 grant to allow Hogar del Buen Pastor to both continue its work and expand its offerings to include chiropractic medicine and functional neurology, among other treatments.

Creating new opportunities

Hogar del Buen Pastor doesn’t just aim to address patients’ underlying issues. It also works to help them make a livelihood going forward through its microbusiness program.

Hogar del Buen Pastor residents work at the cafeteria microbusiness. (Photo courtesy of Hogar del Buen Pastor)

Composed of an embroidery store, a cafeteria, two thrift stores, a bookstore, a moving company, and a soon-to-open carpentry shop, these trades offer residents the opportunity to acquire new skills and gain experience for future employment.

Direct Relief’s grants have also extended toward Hogar del Buen Pastor’s rehabilitation and reintegration programs. Funding has been used to provide investment seed funding for residents who complete the program, as well as stipends for residents who work in the businesses or who participate in job search and budget training.

Along with identifying the best therapies for each individual patient, staff members work to find a fitting business match for residents.

These combined services have had a great impact on residents. “Within a year, we are seeing a positive change,” Beard said. 

Mind, body, and spirit

Torres is an example of precisely that. He recently finished high school while working at Hogar del Buen Pastor’s embroidery microbusiness. As a recent graduate of the center’s program, he’s in the process of moving into an apartment, but he’ll continue working at the embroidery store for the next six months.

“I like to learn,” he said. “I have learned about embroidery and I am thankful because it will help me set up my own business.” His ultimate goal? To go back to school to become a graphic designer. He’s confident that his experience at the embroidery store will help him achieve it.

Hogar del Buen Pastor’s success “lies in the combination of mind, body, and spirit,” said Daisy Montes Cardona, one of the case managers recruited through Direct Relief’s funding. “I am very proud of the work we do here.”

Montes’s work focuses on identifying the best therapies for each resident and helping them complete documentation for drivers’ licenses, health insurance, and other elements of life outside of Hogar del Buen Pastor. Her role as case manager is pivotal in transitioning recovering patients to independent living.

“Sometimes we become their mothers, fathers…their confidants,” she said. “There is a trust that they build with us.”

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