Disciples News Service

Superstorm Sandy recovery effort reaches critical phase

By Barry Shade (courtesy of CWS)

The bigger the disaster, the longer the recovery.

That is certainly true following Superstorm Sandy. The storm hit in October 2012, but a big push to expedite repairs and rebuilding is just beginning – especially in hard-hit New York City and New Jersey.

That takes organization, and local community-based long-term recovery groups are key to helping each survivor access the resources needed to get back into safe, healthy homes and to get on with life.

With funding support from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and other member communions, the public and the American Red Cross, Church World Service plays an important role in strengthening these groups through small start-up grants, usually $5,000, and through workshops and ongoing mentoring.  CWS already has organized many long-term recovery workshops since the storm, and will be conducting many more during the next several months.

CWS emergency response staff are using every opportunity to publicize the availability of the workshops, which they offer at no cost to participants. CWS was represented at the Canarsie Coalition’s Sandy Disaster Resource Forum April 7 in Brooklyn, and will be present at the American Red Cross-New York’s Sandy Resource Fair April 30 in Manhattan.  CWS staff made many contacts at a February 27 “Repair and Rebuild” symposium held at the Salvation Army Temple in New York City.

At the latter, 330 recovery professionals were reminded how crucial the next eight months will be for the restoration of Sandy-affected homes and apartments. The goal is to complete recovery for as many survivors as possible – whether they just need some furniture, or a major rehab of their flooded home.

Between 20,000 and 25,000 New Yorkers have indicated they still need help recovering from Sandy. There are still people living in gutted homes, struggling with mold, without heat, without running water, with leaky roofs. These are not safe, healthy homes – especially for children, elderly people and the disabled.

Most long-term recovery groups in the region are newly formed, and most have never responded to such a large-scale disaster as Superstorm Sandy. They struggle with the procurement of funding and in-kind donations. These groups get tasked with managing construction projects; recruiting, feeding, housing and deploying volunteers; and seeing to survivors’ emotional and spiritual care.

CWS offers training in all these areas, including construction health and safety – the “OSHA 10” training – outreach to survivors unserved and underserved by government programs, identifying unmet needs, and moving cases to completion through the long-term recovery process.

Peter Gudaitis, Executive Director of New York Disaster Interfaith Services, said that with so much disaster long-term recovery activity needed and expected during the next eight months, the time is now for CWS to do an extensive series of workshops in the region. CWS will continue to do the many trainings necessary over the next several months in Sandy-affected areas.

Barry Shade is CWS Associate Director for U.S. Emergency Response.  He lives in Olathe, Kansas, where he is an active member of St. Andrew Christian Church.

Editor’s note:Through coordinated efforts, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has worked to be present in New York and New Jersey to support long-term recovery in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.  In the days following the storm, Week of Compassion, the Disaster Relief and Development Fund of the church, provided grants to individual and congregations affected by the storm, as well as supporting Church World Service appeals.  Week of Compassion also supported efforts led by Regional Minister the Rev. Mary Ann Glover, who worked with local agencies to organize grassroots volunteer cleanup, needs assessment, and advocacy work in affected neighborhoods.  Disciples Volunteering has also referred church mission groups interested in providing hands-on work to the Fuller Center in Atlantic City.