CAMDEN, N.J. — Dioceses in the mid-Atlantic are starting to move their Hurricane Sandy relief efforts to a focus on recovery, 18 days after the storm first touched American soil.
“This weekend, we're going to make the pivot from relief to recovery. ... Relief is a shorter-term proposition,” said Kevin Hickey, executive director of Catholic Charities of Camden, N.J.
“Its length really depends on the scale of any given disaster. ... Recovery is, first of all, long term.”
In a Nov. 16 interview with Catholic News Agency, he said relief efforts in Camden, N.J., involved the setting up of “two disaster-distribution points to handle relief supplies to get them out and into communities as fast as possible.” Those relief-distribution points were closed on Sunday, Nov. 18.
Efforts now turn to long-term recovery, which Hickey said will be “at least a six-month process,” though he had heard a disaster specialist saying that for the state of New Jersey in general it could last as long as 24 months.
“Our own recovery operations will be long-term case management. We're structuring our response ... which would include things like rental assistance, security deposits, helping people clean up their homes, replacing furniture and bedding.”
Catholic Charities of Camden has a “preferential option to serve poor and vulnerable people,” and those in need will be assisted with replacing their goods.
While “it's hard to predict the exact range of needs that will be presented to us,” Hickey said he anticipates a particular need to purchase refrigerators and bus passes.
While the relief-distribution sites in Camden are being closed, a donation-distribution site in the disaster zone itself on the coast is being kept open, and Catholic Charities of Camden will be expanding its storage capability in the disaster zones.
Hickey noted gratefully that the papal nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Viganò, had recently contributed $2,500 to the Camden Diocese's recovery operations, and he had heard that similar contributions were being made to all 12 affected American dioceses.
Patti Phillips, development director at Catholic Charities West Virginia, echoed the move from relief to recovery.
“We know that as the immediate needs are met long-term recovery and repair to homes will be significant,” she said Nov. 16. Catholic Charities West Virginia will “begin to assess the damage and start working to make those repairs,” as they've seen “roofs collapsed, power outages causing damage to appliances and so forth.”
Phillips said that the recovery process “can take up to six to eight months” and is exacerbated this year because of the multiple storms that have pummeled West Virginia. Heavy storms in the spring caused power problems and storm damage to homes, and another storm hit in the summer.
“Many of those repairs were in process when the snow from Sandy fell,” said Phillips. Some of the homes were still tarped and beginning those repairs, trying to get them done before the winter.”
West Virginia has distribution centers for food and supplies throughout the state, and Bishop Michael Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston asked all his parishes to take up a second collection the weekend of Nov. 18.
Kim Burgo, senior director of disaster operations at Catholic Charities USA, said Nov. 15 that there has been an outpouring of generosity to help people “begin the recovery process.”
Both supplies and crisis counseling are being offered, and she reported that displaced persons will be placed in a disaster case-management process to help them in their long-term needs.
The Knights of Columbus announced Nov. 15 that their donations to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts in the United States have totaled more than $500,000.
“Charity is the first principle of the Knights of Columbus,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, “and in a disaster such as this, we are grateful to the many people who have made donations in support of our relief efforts and are pleased to be able to directly aid those most in need.”
And in the Caribbean, Catholic Relief Services and Caritas America Latina y el Caribe have been responding to Hurricane Sandy’s effects in Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica.
According a Nov. 6 press release from Caritas, some 85% of housing in Santiago de Cuba has suffered some damage, and many people have been displaced from their homes.
“In light of this situation, the response of Caritas Cuba has been to concentrate on basic necessities like food and water, which remain priorities to this day,” the release stated. “Also, Caritas Cuba has distributed to affected persons articles of personal hygiene and household needs.”
Caritas Cuba is focusing on the neediest families, in particular single mothers of young children and elderly people without children to help them.
“We are only able to do a little bit,” said Maritza Sanchez, director of Caritas Cuba. “But that little thing alleviates some of the anguish and uplifts the hope of persons and families who are going through such difficult times.”