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June 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.

How a simple phone call can change a person’s life...

Jun 19, 2014

The Long Island Long Term Recovery Group was established to respond to needs after Hurricane Irene. When Sandy struck they had only begun to organize and had to now address another, more severe storm. World Renew, a ministry of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, joined the LTRG to begin the process of assessing the extent of need in Long Island communities. Through their walk-in centers they interviewed almost 400 cases. AmeriCorps volunteers contacted an additional 950 cases before their funding ran out.


The LI LTRG decided to continue reaching out to known cases left on the AmeriCorps call list. In March of this year they established a Call Center through the Long Island Volunteer Center. This is one story from the Call Center, by Beata Clark and Francesca Yellico:


Recently while completing calls from The AmeriCorps "wait list" we came across an 89-year old Italian widow, named Elena. Her house, as many others on the south shore, has sustained severe damage from Hurricane Sandy. Four feet of salt water has destroyed the entire first floor of her home.


Immediately following the storm, AmeriCorps St. Louis Emergency Response Team did the basic muck out and mold remediation. Unfortunately, 18 months later the house is still in disrepair, untouched from where the volunteers left it over a year ago. The home has no insulation or sheetrock and the bare concrete floor is cracking and heavily damaged. The house is being held up by rotting and decaying wooden studs and the electrical wiring is corroded by the salt water and creating hazardous conditions.

This woman has been living in these horrible conditions for so long because she didn’t know where to turn to for help. She accepted her circumstances and carried this burden all alone because she was afraid and didn’t have anyone to trust or confide in. Living alone and surviving the storm left her feeling unsafe and vulnerable.


After speaking for quite some time and establishing a rapport she finally found someone she could trust and confide in. We were so honored to have been part of that. Through the work of the Call Center we were able not only find Elena but to connect her to different resources in the community. It is with great joy that we report to you the new road Elena is on.


We were able to connect her with a DCM, who immediately brought her case to the Unmet Needs Roundtable. Not only will all her electrical wiring be redone through their generosity but the Southern Baptists Disaster Relief volunteers immediately committed to do the insulation, sheetrock and spackling.


We cannot begin to express how happy we are for Elena. Things will be changing in such a beautiful way for her. We are in awe of the goodness and care being shown towards her by all involved. We feel so inspired and thankful to have been able to initiate this wonderful recovery process.


Special thanks to: PricewaterhouseCoopers, LTRG, FEGS, the Unmet Needs Roundtable and Southern Baptists Disaster Relief volunteers for making all this possible. This is a prime example of teamwork at its finest. We are so proud to work with such wonderful people.


Special thanks to Diana O’Neill for re-opening the Call Center and enabling us reach out to these vulnerable residents. You are allowing us to be the voice for those still quietly suffering.


Reach the Call Center at 631-630-9221.          


How Hurricane Sandy affected renters

Jun 17, 2014

A recently released report by Make the Road New York highlights the impact of Sandy on New York City’s renters. As with New Orleans and Katrina, New York City had many more renters in the impacted neighborhoods than it had homeowners. In addition, the majority of renters are vulnerable populations such as people of color and immigrants. Their research, primarily in Staten Island, discovered that after Sandy many renters have been unable to return to their homes or neighborhoods, and many have had to move to smaller, more expensive apartments, sometimes in multi-family arrangements.


Strikingly, the report notes that rents in Sandy impacted neighborhoods have gone up in some cases approximately 20%, thus taking an additional 12% from the median income of households surveyed. For families and individuals already burdened by high rents and low incomes, this leads to difficult choices between housing and food, clothing, or other necessities.


It appears that some rental properties are falling prey to speculators and developers. The report cites a Huffington Post article from March 2013 describing the difficulties in repairing or rebuilding after the storm, making sales more attractive to owners and potential buyers who can afford to develop the properties.


Renters are important to the local economies that suffered after Sandy as well. Those who rent are more likely to patronize the small businesses located in neighborhoods rather than travel to more distant outlets. Local landlords also depend on rental income to meet their mortgages and other expenses.

What follows are some key findings in the Make the Road report.

  • New York City renters who were affected by Hurricane Sandy have a median income of $18,000, which is approximately half the median income of renters in New York City as a whole.
  • Renters affected by Sandy are more likely to be low-income and of color than their homeowner counterparts.
  • 36% of people interviewed are paying more rent now than they did before the storm.
  • The median rent paid by Sandy-affected households has increased $200 a month since the storm.
  • 40% of renters interviewed did not return to their pre-Sandy address.
  • Many survey participants are living in smaller spaces and moving from single families homes to apartments.
  • Many Sandy-affected renters report they are unable to afford healthy food and other basic necessities as a result of increased rent.
  • Structural barriers, such as the lack of translation and interpretation services for non-native English speakers, have prevented many renters from accessing available resources.

Weathering the Storm

Jun 12, 2014

"The City’s response to Hurricane Sandy was slow and communication to residents before, during and after the storm was inadequate."


This spring, a collaborative effort among several organizations concerned with the effects of Sandy on their communities issued a report entitled Weathering the Storm, focused on the impact of the storm on New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents. According to the report, the storm aggravated already poor conditions in New York City Housing Authority buildings. The report points out that delayed maintenance in buildings, poor communications between NYCHA and residents and with the city’s Office of Emergency Management, and an ongoing mold problem were exacerbated after Sandy washed through over 400 buildings in the boroughs of Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan.


In many buildings, residents went without heat and hot water for weeks before temporary boilers were installed. Those boilers remain in place today and have proven to be unreliable, leaving residents uncertain whether they will have heat on cold days or hot water. The report states that NYCHA administrators knew of the vulnerability of their properties but failed to implement measures to protect services. The housing system suffers from chronic underfunding for maintenance and upgrades.


In many NYCHA houses, community centers served as rescue and relief centers for residents and community members. Because of past deficits in NYCHA budgets many of these community centers have closed. It took local community and faith based organizations to open the centers for relief. These same centers continue to be threatened by lack of funding. The 2014 deficit for NYCHA stands at $78,000,000.


Participants in the report include, The Alliance for a Just Rebuilding, ALIGN, Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center, Community Voices Heard, Faith in New York, Families United for Racial and Economic Equality, Good Old Lower East Side, Red Hook Initiative and New York Communities for Change.


The state of long-term emotional and spiritual care

Jun 02, 2014

When I was asked to give a presentation at a Disaster Preparedness, Response and Resilience Forum at Union Theological Seminary on the subject of emotional and spiritual care, I took it as an opportunity to reflect on the state of spiritual care now that we have passed 18 months since the storm struck. The Rev. Susan Karlson of the Unitarian Universalist Church and I teamed up to look at what systems are in place to respond to disasters throughout the recovery process. We noted that, like much of the disaster response we have seen, a good deal of resource and capacity exists for the short-term and intermediate phases, but long-term emotional and spiritual care especially has suffered a drastic drop-off in attention after we passed the first anniversary of the storm.


For the first year after Sandy came ashore a great deal of emotional and spiritual care for survivors came through Project Hope, a state-funded program that lasted until February of this year. Long Term Recovery Groups gave little attention to what would happen once this program concluded. Almost all thought was to crisis management with an implied assumption that after 14 months the crisis would be over. However, for many survivors, the crisis lingers and, as frustrations at the many delays and disappointments mount, it is compounded by new crises with even deeper impact.


I have observed from meetings of LTRGs and their Emotional and Spiritual Care Committees that we tend to focus on this area, as with most of our response, only as a "professional" response. We look for the mental health professionals and religious leaders to provide the care we believe we need.


When considering spiritual resilience and preparation for future disasters, we need to look beyond the professionals to the communities of faith that create healthy spaces. In my presentation, I stressed the importance of congregations planning for disaster so that they are prepared to serve as those places of health and healing. Having a disaster plan means that we are less likely to spend our energy figuring out our congregations’ recovery and more available to serve our neighbors; our plans will help us to work for real Long-Term spiritual renewal among the people to whom God has sent us.


During a conversation with one of the conference attendees we concluded that we are asking our congregations that they be church. Planning for disaster is part of being church.


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