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December 2014 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.


Dec 15, 2014

One thing I have learned about disaster response work: change is constant. We talk about times of transition and those times seem to be a constant occurrence. Changing seasons and anniversaries, however, mark significant times of transition. Therefore, this winter, we see funding expiring, programs ending, and people moving on to other jobs in other locations. Thankfully, at the same time, we welcome new partners in our efforts, while some old partners adapt to the changing landscape as well.

In this third year of response to Superstorm Sandy, we will see many major national organizations leaving the recovery effort. The Red Cross has already pulled most of their attention from our area, although they continue to provide some funding for others to continue their work. Organizations that assist with reconstruction of homes, such as the Southern Baptists, expect to leave at the end of the summer.


Meanwhile, organizations that until now have had little input into the recovery efforts have begun to bring their expertise to bear. I see this mostly in the area of emotional and mental health. Those who will carry out the long-term recovery will be local organizations and individuals rather than the major national groups. Long-Term Recovery Groups (LTRG) in Long Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and Staten Island work to bring together these organizations so that communication, collaboration, cooperation, and coordination can continue for the benefit of affected residents and communities.


In some areas, such as Patchogue, Massapequa, Lindenhurst, Long Beach, Roosevelt, Mastic, and Staten Island, Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD) have begun to form. COADs provide a forum for local organizations to maintain contact and prepare for future disasters. When a disaster strikes, COADs can mobilize resources more quickly because systems of communication and collaboration are already in place. In addition, through Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), COADs participate in a network of response organizations that can bring greater resources from other areas when needed.


Our congregations can bring their own resources to the table by participating in the LTRGs and COADs in their areas. The church has an important role to play in disaster response and recovery, and preparedness. We bring our selves, our buildings and our network of congregations in the synod and the ELCA as assets to respond to disasters here and around the world.


A long way to go

Dec 10, 2014

This month I attended a meeting of the Long Island LTRG Volunteer and Donations committee in Central Islip. The committee is anchored by the Long Island Volunteer Center and includes participants from FEMA, Southern Baptists, and the New York Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. At this meeting I was not surprised to hear that the LTRG continues to discover people who need assistance in order to recover from Sandy.


The Long Island LTRG operates a call center that reaches out to members of the impacted communities to offer assistance. The call center has encountered many people who have fallen through the cracks of the disaster recovery. They may have missed deadlines for filing for government aid or they tried to make it on their own, thinking they could handle the intricacies of the system of assistance. Many of these people are elderly and isolated.


In Brooklyn, the LTRG just completed a round of phone canvassing covering the neighborhood of Canarsie. Of the 380 contacts, more than half still have recovery needs and do not have the assistance of a Disaster Case Manager such as those working for LSSNY.


It seems clear to me that this disaster recovery still has a long way to go, and LTRGs with their constituent organizations need to gear up for many years of work. The accomplishments of government assistance programs and the efforts of voluntary organizations have only scratched the surface of what will be a long and arduous recovery.


Quality of life

Dec 04, 2014

It may not seem like a big deal, but to Mrs. C in Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn, the mold on the windows of her glassed in porch had become a quality of life issue. Sandy's storm surge drove ocean waters into her basement flooding up to five feet. The flooding led to mold developing on the first floor and Mrs. C began to experience adverse health in reaction to the mold, conditions she did not have before the storm.

After spending the $13,000 flood insurance payment, plus much more from her own savings to rehab the basement, this 84-year old woman was left with insufficient resources to complete repairs to her home. In addition, the unique construction of her enclosed porch meant that few contractors would even consider a repair project, thus increasing the cost.

Thankfully, Mrs. C had a Lutheran Social Services Disaster Case Manager who brought her case to the Unmet Needs Roundtable convened by NYDIS. The Unmet Needs Roundtable brings funders together to hear cases presented by Disaster Case Managers. Funders decide between themselves whether and how much to provide for client recovery needs. In Mrs. C's case, a funder provided over $17,000 to cover the repairs.




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