Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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October 2013 Archive for Disaster relief

RSS By: Pastor Craig Miller

Disaster relief coordinator Pastor Craig Miller shares disaster relief information in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Progress report, one year later

Oct 19, 2013

It has been nearly 12 months since Superstorm Sandy made landfall in New York, causing destruction and devastation in communities along the southern shores of Long Island and New York City, and damaging properties in many other areas. In the weeks after the storm, as synod staff assessed the impact on congregations, we discovered that several church buildings had sustained damage from wind and water. Of those properties, five had such significant damage that we wondered how they would recover, even whether they could rebuild at all.

 

Rather quickly, our ELCA network sprung into action. From within our synod and around the ELCA, congregations began to send help. Some sent financial donations to help clean up and restore congregation spaces, while others sent volunteers and other resources. With these generous contributions, our congregations began to recover. St. Paul’s in Coney Island had a nearly complete renovation to their building. St. John’s by the Sea in Long Beach, St. Barnabas in Howard Beach, and St. James in Gerritsen Beach each had water damage in their lower levels that took months to clean up and restore.

 

For some, the work is not yet complete. Both St. James and St. Barnabas continue to put the finishing touches on their spaces. St. Barnabas had by far the most damage to its property. Although most of the repairs to walls and floors have been completed, they have yet to restore their kitchen and replace the furnishings they lost to the water. According to Pastor Baum, the congregation has more than $15,000 in outstanding need without including kitchen appliances and cabinets.

 

More difficult to measure is the impact on those congregations that did not experience property damage but had members in the communities struck by the storm. Congregations, such as Oceanside Lutheran, had members whose homes in the surge zone were damaged. Many who lived in the impacted areas were forced to leave their homes; some of them decided not to return. The congregations had no opportunity to bid farewell to these vital members. The long-term impact to the congregations has yet to be felt.

 

As we move forward in our recovery, we hold these congregations in prayer with hope for their renewal. Our continuing support – financial donations and companionship – remains important to all those working to restore their homes, communities, and churches.

 

Hidden home losses

Oct 16, 2013

Recently, I toured several communities in Brooklyn that had been impacted by the storm surge. The purpose of our trip was to learn about the ongoing collaborative recovery efforts in those neighborhoods. We heard about the struggles these communities have faced and the hard work of voluntary agencies and organizations as they strive to rebuild homes and businesses.

 

In almost every conversation with the local leaders, we heard about the many homeowners who struggle to meet the costs of ownership, having lost income from apartments they maintained in their homes. These apartments are usually in lower levels of the home and are often illegal. Especially in the case of illegal apartments, funds for rebuilding are not available; nor can the homeowner access many of the services available from the government made available for recovery. Without the rental income these homeowners may face foreclosure.

 

Frequently, the former occupants of these apartments were undocumented immigrants or impoverished individuals who cannot afford the cost of "legal" rentals. After the storm, these people not only face the loss of their belongings, but the loss of their home as well. Indeed, what was their home may never be rebuilt. When the government counts the loss of housing from the storm, these homes go uncounted because they never officially existed.

 

In effect, the waters of the storm have washed away a covering from the ongoing housing crises of our area. Home prices have soared above the means of many to afford without extraordinary measures. Often low-income and undocumented populations are asked to shoulder the burden of overpriced housing by living in these illegal apartments. As we have seen, these apartments are subject to flooding, in addition to being below the accepted standards for living in our area.

 

Perhaps Sandy has exposed a crisis most of our communities have too long ignored. We have an opportunity now to advocate for more equitable housing policies in our communities. ELCA partners Habitat for Humanity - NYC, Nassau County and Suffolk County, as well as many organizations both local and national, bring voices together to call for fair housing for all. We can also join with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services and other organizations that call for fair treatment of immigrants.

 

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