Posts Tagged ‘Disaster Case Manager’

From the Philippines to New York, Help Is Here

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

By Alice Kenny

 

From typhoons to hurricanes and pestilence to plagues, the Catholic Church maintains its centuries-established commitment of providing food, shelter and support for those suffering. Now, as tens of thousands of Filipinos whose lives have been destroyed by the devastating typhoon struggle to survive without food, water or homes, Catholic Relief Services is on the ground, providing help.  Meanwhile, closer to home, New Yorkers continue to rebuild lives hurt by Hurricane Sandy.

Newsday tells the story of Susan Gorman, 58, a widow who lost her home to 5 1/2 feet of Sandy-driven flood waters, and Catholic Charities’ continued efforts to help her and other hurricane survivors recover.

Ms. Gorman’s now-empty split-level house in Lindenhurst, Long Island stood across the street from a canal. She applied to the state’s NY Rising Housing Recovery Program — seeking to have the state buy her house — with the help of Isabel Clostre, a disaster case manager for Catholic Charities. Clostre stood next to Gorman outside the gray-shingled house.

“I left a year ago today,” Gorman told Newsday, recalling her evacuation to her mother’s home in Bellmore the day before the storm hit Long Island. “I thought I would be back in three days, and I’ve never come back and will probably never come back.

“This is the home I’ve lived in for 33 years,” she said. “My children were raised here. But I’ve had water in the house since the storm several times. The streets still flood. For me, I can’t come back here . . . I just can’t do it. My husband died a year before the storm. For me to go through this alone, it’s just not easy.”

Catholic Charities, at a recent joint news conference with fellow representatives of the Long Term Recovery Group, a coalition of 145 nonprofit, volunteer and governmental organizations providing disaster relief services to Sandy victims, made it clear their efforts are continuing.

From the Philippines to New York, families confronted by a crisis often feel helpless. Catholic Charities provides accurate and timely information and referrals, and will help advocate for the services required by a family. Catholic Charities crisis experts help individuals and families plan long-term solutions to immediate problems through counseling and financial assistance.

 

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From the Shadows to the Light – Undocumented Family Rebuilds Their Life

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

By Teresa Santiago

When Hurricane Sandy began assaulting the Midland Beach area of Staten Island, Jesus Maria Aguilar, his wife Patricia and son Allan did not imagine the devastation that it would leave in its wake.

They lived in Midland Avenue right in the middle of a flood zone area but did not receive any warning or evacuation advisory leading up to the super storm. If warning signs were posted they did not understand because they were not in Spanish. “The day of the storm we were scared because we were feeling the strength and power of the storm. The wind and rain was like nothing we had ever experienced. By the time we decided to leave our apartment the water was already up to our thighs,” recalls Patricia.

The Maria Aguilar family went to stay with a friend on Tompkins Avenue. Less than an hour of being in their friend’s home they received a call from a neighbor informing them that their apartment building was on fire.

The family was not able to see the damage until days later after the flood waters had receded. They were told that the fire department tried to stop the fire but could not get near the building because the flood waters were too high. When the family was able to go back to their home they were totally devastated. “Nothing was left but ashes. We lost everything but the clothes on our backs and the few things we packed to weather the storm,” recalled Jesus.

“I ran into the freezing water towards the building thinking that there was something I could save,” said Patricia. “We work so hard for the few things we have. To see everything that we have worked for gone was incomprehensible. I was stunned.”

The fire occurred when 90 mile per hour winds and rain caused an electrical short in the power line in front of the Maria Aguilar’s apartment building.

For months the Maria Aguilar family lived with their nephew with no help or direction on where to go for help. Since they are undocumented they were not able to receive any federal government aid including FEMA.

“We were desperate. We had no money. I worked when I could find it. Because of my arthritis and diabetes acting up it made it very difficult to find work during this time. A neighbor told my nephew about El Centro del Inmigrante, (El Centro), about the services they provided and that it was all confidential. We immediately went and started our recovery process,” said Jesus.

At El Centro the family met with Catholic Charities disaster case manager Melba Rodriguez and received immediate help, gift cards for food and basic necessities as well as the down payment for their new apartment. What they urgently needed was a refrigerator and air conditioner. The family was using plastic coolers and ice to keep their perishable food cold and edible. In early September, Jesus received $1,300 in Home Depot gift cards to purchase his refrigerator and air conditioner.

El Centro is one of the community-based agencies subcontracted by Catholic Charities to provide a locally-based disaster case manager for each family that have unmet needs related to Hurricane Sandy. El Centro addresses the needs of newly arrived immigrant day laborers and their families. Through immigrant and labor advocacy, educational workshops, labor leadership training, and emergency intervention for hunger, homelessness, health and safety needs, El Centro provides opportunities for economic empowerment, community-building and organizing.

Catholic Charities has a proven track record of managing disaster cases beginning with the 911 terror attack in 2001 then Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in late 2011. The NYS Division of Homeland Security Office of Emergency Management, (OEM), has an existing contract with Catholic Charities to manage the DCM program for the 34 counties that were impacted by the Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee and requested that Catholic Charities expand on this experience and manage the long term disaster case management program for survivors of Sandy.

The program is designed to provide a locally-based disaster case manager for each family in the 13 impacted New York counties that have unmet needs related to Hurricane Sandy. By funding networks of community-based agencies, NYS hopes to provide easy access to support residents seeking help and to avoid duplication of services.

Catholic Charities has subcontracted with 20 locally-based not-for-profit organizations with demonstrated expertise in the provision of case management services to serve impacted communities. El Centro is one of these community-based agencies funded.

Through this program Catholic Charities case manager Rodriguez has laid out a long term plan for the Maria Aguilar family that has assessed their immediate and long term situation. She has assisted them in receiving the aid that they need to get back on their feet. “The Maria Aguilar family has gone through an extremely difficult life altering situation, but they are resilient and hard working people,” said Ms. Rodriguez.

“We finally feel that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, we are feeling better emotionally, physically and finally feeling hopeful for a good future. We are extremely grateful for the help that Ms. Rodriguez, Catholic Charities and El Centro has given us. I don’t know what we would have done without the help” acknowledged Patricia.

“I thank God everyday that we are alive and that we suffered no injuries, material things can always be replaced. We came to this country from Acapulco, Mexico nine years ago with nothing and we have always worked hard. We will continue to build our lives. It is the only thing we can do,” concluded Jesus.

“Still Here” Proclaims Driftwood Sign by Sandy Survivor

Monday, August 12th, 2013

By Alice Kenny

Little — in fact, nearly nothing other than the “Still Here,” driftwood sign Audrey Jill Sherry spray painted outside her hurricane-torn home — offered any hope last December that her home remained inhabited.   What belonged inside the house — furniture, clothes and photos of family long gone — was now packed into 200 garbage bags that filled two dumpsters.  They stood on the front lawn amid water-slogged shoes, an upended kitchen table, crushed Christmas decorations and a torn American flag.  Meanwhile, dead fish, rocks, shells and mud up to the rafters now took the furniture’s place.

Two cedar trees felled by the storm gouged the roof. A 60-foot-tall tree, now split in two, splayed across the lawn.  Ms. Sherry’s home now had no doors and no windows.  There was no electricity, no heat, no hot water.  Even Ms. Sherry’s truck had been washed away.

“I was too stunned to even ask for help,” says Ms. Sherry who lived in the two-story brick-faced Seaview Avenue home for more than three decades.

Ms. Sherry learned about the Hurricane Sandy Restoration Center established and staffed by Catholic Charities and fellow first responders four weeks after Hurricane Sandy washed more than nine feet of water into her home. She called and met with Catholic Charities Disaster Case Manager Supervisor Elizabeth Netherwood 10 minutes later.

“She opened up her heart and arms, telling me ‘I can do this for you; I can help you,” Ms. Sherry says.  “It was a turning point; I realized I needed help and I was going to get it.”

Ms. Netherwood linked Ms. Sherry to services offered by FEMA and other first responders.  She gave her Salvation Army gift certificates.  And she used Catholic Charities funds to purchase a $699 generator to heat and electrify Ms. Sherry’s home.

The generator lifted Ms. Sherry’s spirits while inserting a dose of reality.  She could now clearly see mold growing on her peeling walls and the shattered glass wedged between her buckling floors.

She scrubbed, cleaned, and hosed down the inside of the house as if it were a shower.  And slowly, with help, she began to rebuild.

Buttressed by the support she received, she brought blankets to a neighbor who has cancer and clothes to a vendor down the street who lost his hotdog truck to the storm.

“For every kindness given to me I need to pay that forward,” she says as she takes a break from scrubbing her home.  “I don’t know what the next step is; I just know in my heart that I will be provided for as long as I do my part and I know that I’ll be okay.”

 

Nearly Two Years since Hurricane Irene, Disaster Recovery Continues

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

 

Ron and Linda Potwin sit Friday in the living room. The Leader Herald

Buckets and bowls are stacked in a corner of Ron and Linda Potwin’s living room, ready to catch rainwater from a leaking roof.

Parts of the ceiling, bowed and cracked, are supported by beams and poles.

“The roof only leaks when it rains,” Ron says, showing the couple’s ability to stay lighthearted in the face of a struggle that’s been ongoing since August 2011, when Tropical Storm Irene battered the region with heavy rains, wind and flooding.

Through 51 years of marriage, the Potwins have overcome struggles through their faith, hope and strength.

They’re now on their way to having life restored to normal after connecting with a disaster case manager at Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany, an organization that’s associated with the Fulton Montgomery Long Term Recovery Committee.

“It’s a blessing, believe me,” Linda said. “I just thank God for it, because we never could have done it on our own.”

Catholic Charities New York, in recognition for its success helping victims within the Archdiocese of New York recover from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, now provides disaster recovery services beyond the Hudson Valley.  The Catholic Charities Disaster Case Management Program works directly with the New York State Office of Emergency Management and 24 partner agencies to provide ongoing case management for nearly 10,000 families recovering from Hurricanes Irene, Lee and Superstorm Sandy spread over 34 counties from Long Island to the Canadian border. While many short-term goals following these massive storms have been met, Catholic Charities is now focusing on helping families with long-term case management to rebuild their homes and lives.

Read the Potwin’s full story published in The Leader Herald.

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Our Prayers for All Hurt by the Oklahoma Tornado; Our Help for Disaster Survivors

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

By Alice Kenny

Our thoughts and prayers are with all those hurt by the devastating, mile-wide tornado that touched down near Oklahoma City yesterday, killing at least 51 people—including 20 children—decimating homes, businesses and a pair of elementary schools.

As New Yorkers who have unfortunately struggled through Hurricane Sandy, Tropical Storm Irene and the World Trade Center destruction, we know firsthand about coping with disasters.

At Catholic Charities, we know firsthand how to help.

Please remember that we are here to help during disasters and every day.

From disaster response professionals visiting parishes to deliver information and resources, to volunteers collecting and distributing food and supplies, to neighbors checking in on neighbors, the entire Catholic Charities community responds to meet the human needs of the victims, providing help and creating hope for rebuilding lives.

Many still struggle to recover from Hurricane Sandy. Please come see your local Disaster Case Manager for help rebuilding your life.

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