Today I went down to Brooklyn to the New York Communities for Change office to do some data entry. People have been canvassing the buildings out in the Rockaways and other places hard hit by Sandy. They fill out forms indicating their needs. Most common items needed were batteries, flashlights, candles, food, water, and blankets. People still have no power out there! Several were in need of medication for diabetes. Several were asthmatic and concerned about mold in the once flooded basement. Nearly all of them were requesting aid from FEMA, some indicated they were already in the process of getting help but weren’t sure whether or not that process was moving along. All the forms were filled out on November 10. (The storm hit October 29.) Some people who still have cars that are working indicated they had no gas. Many were wanting assistance applying for food stamps. Some were homeowners, some renters, one landlord who lives on the second floor. The first floor was completely destroyed, that tenant moved on, somewhere. Many indicated that they are not able to make mortgage payments on their homes, or what’s left of them now.
For many life has gone on, but the road ahead is long for people living in Staten Island and along the coasts of NY and NJ. (When I was finished I found myself in Chelsea, you’d never know that millions of people were devastated by a storm two weeks ago walking around there. It reminded me of the tourist overheard in midtown who said, “it’s not really that bad here, what’s all the fuss about?” a few days after the storm. Walking around above 37th street even then, you’d never know anything had happened at all.) The problem I see is that people’s needs weren’t being met before the storm, now their situations are more heartbreaking and leave me feeling a little hopeless.
On the bright side, my mentor’s organization Fortunate Blessings will be coming to the area in a couple weeks. The work he does providing trauma relief following natural disasters is far reaching and profound. Since I’ve known him he’s done work in Samoa, Haiti, and Japan; but he also was in Indonesia following the tsunami there several years ago. I’m looking forward to volunteering with his efforts here. So, please make a donation…even small amounts are helpful. The people here really need it.