Posts Tagged ‘El Centro del Inmigrante’

Catholic Charities Announces $250,000 Holiday Assistance for Staten Island Sandy Survivors

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Msgr. Sullivan speaks with Sandy survivors

By Alice Kenny

Staten Island families can still sign up for Disaster Relief Services to become eligible

Catholic Charities announced a $250,000 program to provide holiday assistance to Staten Island families still affected by Hurricane Sandy.

  • The help will come in the form of gift cards for holiday meals and needed food or other necessities  such as coats, blankets and household items during this Thanksgiving through Christmas season.
  • The focus of this service, to begin in mid-November, are families with  an open case through the disaster case management program available through Catholic Charities and other Staten Island organizations.
  • Case managers remain ready to accept additional referrals and provide help.
  • The announcement coincides with the first anniversary Hurricane Sandy Mass of Remembrance at Our Lady Star of the Sea in Staten Island celebrated by Cardinal Timothy Dolan on October 27.

“As the holiday season approaches, we know this is the time of year we can do more,” said Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director of Catholic Charities. “Catholic Charities has been on the ground in Staten Island since Sandy hit, thanks in part to the many local pastors who did a tremendous job assessing needs and finding ways to give back to the community. We plan to be in the community for the long haul since we know more work needs to be done. It is our hope that these gifts during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons will alleviate some of the overwhelming physical and emotional devastation experienced by these families. For any family still seeking help, our case managers are ready to help.”

Cardinal Dolan, who has made several pastoral visits to the people and parishes of Staten Island that were affected by Sandy, noted that “Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York has been on the front lines, providing not only relief, but coordination of aid, helping as well to renew the spirit by providing counselors for those hit hard by loss. In the days and weeks immediately following the storm, I saw firsthand their work and those of our Pastors with people whose lives had been so badly impacted by the storm. I know that Catholic Charities will be here continuing to help for as long as they are needed.”

The holiday assistance program is part of the ongoing assistance that Catholic Charities has provided Staten Island communities since last year. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, Catholic Charities:

  • Distributed more than $1 million in direct assistance
  • Converted existing space into a Staten Island collection center to provide food, water, cleaning supplies, blankets, and financial Support to over 1,000 individuals with lasting power issues
  • Mobilized hundreds of volunteers to work reconstruct homes and streets
  • Provided meals
  • Staffed a disaster relief center in Staten Island seven days a week to centralize resources with an intake hotline to answer residents’ questions

Due to ongoing unmet needs facing many Staten Island families, Catholic Charities has committed to helping the borough for the long term.

One of the ongoing initiatives, the disaster case management program, was announced by Governor Cuomo in April and is administered by Catholic Charities. It provides disaster survivors with a single point of contact to develop and carry out a disaster recovery plan by getting access to a broad range of needed resources.

  • Roughly 200 service coordinators are stationed throughout the 13 hardest-hit counties, including New York City, Nassau, Suffolk, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester counties.
  • Catholic Charities provides the services directly or partners with local not-for-profits like the Jewish Community Center (JCC) of Staten Island, El Centro del Inmigrante, Lutheran Social Services, the Arab-American Family Support Center and the Center for Independence of the Disabled.
  • In Staten Island alone, nearly 800 families have been provided disaster case management through this program.

Eligibility for the program is open to anyone with an unmet need that arose from or was exacerbated by Superstorm Sandy, even those who have not applied to FEMA for assistance.

Those impacted by the storm can call the Sandy Referral Line, 1-855-258-0483, to find out the location and contact information for their nearest service provider.

A full list can also be found online at  www.catholiccharitiesny.org/disasterrelief

Check out more photos of the event.

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.