We're an Episcopal Church in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. We've partnered with Occupy Sandy to help provide resources and hope to our hurricane-impacted neighbors in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. We hope these images will inspire you to help. Please also visit our website, here.
Church was looking a little empty this morning after several weeks of this! But we’re so happy that FEMA is providing a warehouse to help streamline the continued relief effort, and we’re also so happy that our Occupy Sandy friends will still be using 520Clinton for volunteer coordination.
An important story about the reality on the ground, now…
Yesterday I was called by a mental health professional working on Rockaway to go and visit a woman and her two children in their home. They had been living without power and heat for almost a month now and the mold was beginning to crawl up her walls. She was using her stove to heat their foreclosed apartment what the landlord abandoned about a year ago. Whenever her carbon monoxide detector went off, she simply cracked a window to let some cold air in. Her stroller was covered with green fuzzy mold, and her doors were buckling and wet to the touch. Her flooded car still sat in the driveway of her small apartment building and she was just now beginning to put her life back together. Despite all of this, her children were clean and well fed and her apartment was well kept.
When I entered the apartment, the smell of wet mold hit me in the face and crept right through my mask. I felt bad wearing a mask in the house that she had been living in with her children so I took it off. I held her one year old baby on my lap while we spoke about their living situation and her feeling of complete helplessness. No one had come for them, she had no family or friends to rely on, and she was doing her best to get her family out of the house by saving the remaining $2,000 from her FEMA check.
I suggested that we go to the City’s Restoration Center and speak with them about helping her get other housing before the oncoming storm. So off we went, kids in tow to get her some help. Upon entering the center it became clear that this was not a place for aid but a gross display of City and State bureaucracy at its worst. We waited three hours with two children and were passed from rep to rep who simply passed the buck on to one another. We were even put on the phone with FEMA to discuss possible relocation for her, she was told to wait for her FEMA renewal in the mail. I could see her fear mounting as she did her best to hide it from her children. “It’s okay baby” she said “we are going to be okay”. We discussed spending her FEMA money on a hotel and quickly came to the conclusion that this would not last them long and at the end of the week they would be homeless. Our trip to the Restoration Center ended with a $300 Salvation Army store credit and more follow up calls. The City recommended that she stay with “friends and family” at which point we looked at each other…. “what friends and family?”
What were we going to do? We piled back into the car and went to pack her family some small bags of clothing. We made our way up the dark wet stairs and found their supplies by small flashlight. I drove them to my home where they stayed in a guest room in my basement. Not ideal, but an upgrade to the situation they were in earlier in the day. We had dinner with my children and made a game plan for the following day. This included calling FEBS, Home Base, Public Assistance and FEMA in the hopes that they could offer her some assistance.
Now, into our second day together searching for help, I am astounded by this woman’s courage and bravery. To leave her home and go into the unknown with a stranger offering her help, is taking a leap of faith that no mother should have to jump. We will continue to look for help and we will not stop until she has it. (From Queens Mamas http://www.queensmamas.com/)