New York City was giving up on Hurricane Sandy victims two weeks ago. Repairs are still in process. We heard on Hear and Now on NPR from those displaced who were at their wits end with the FEMA. The paperwork problems and the debate about rebuilding on the coast are still on going issues. There are still hundreds homeless from the October 2012 disaster. Remember, it took months for the Congress to approve disaster assistance with a significant number voting against spending federal dollars on this recovery. There are still many stuck waiting for government and insurance companies deciding if a homeowner can rebuild so close to the water. Over the last year, the federal government has restructured the flood insurance program which sometimes will make it economically impossible to occupy a building so close to the water. It is a mess, spread among two states that we have not resolved, and another example of government letting down the population.
My experience is nothing compared to the suffering that occurred in New York and New Jersey with the thousands who lost everything. I got stuck in DC after a National Coalition for the Homeless board meeting for two days. There was very little damage in the nation's capital, but the government and the City completely shut down stranding thousands. The transportation system shut down making it difficult to get out of the city. I tried to get out early, but could not get an early flight. I think Cleveland had more damage as a result of the Superstorm compared to Washington DC. My daughter, a driver for only one and a half years, keeps a strange list of her top 10 worst driving experiences and driving home from school in Lake County to the east side of Cleveland during the storm is number one on that list. If storms are going to get worse because of climate change, we need to be better prepared for large scale natural disasters.
I was shocked about how long public housing residents in New York City waited for power to return to their buildings because of neglect and all the electrical and heating below ground level in their complexes. Some buildings waited for months without power and the residents waited in place never receiving information about how long the power would be out. Some currently homeless people did well because when millions are experiencing a natural disaster society is not as judgmental with assigning blame for the loss of housing. Some of the major vulnerabilities revealed during Sandy were the telephone/cellular system, public transportation systems, emergency shelters during disasters, long term housing options for people who have their house destroyed, government response to a disaster over the long run, and pushing insurance to quickly resolve claims. If this prolonged disaster can happen in New York City, it can happen anywhere. We all need to be prepared.
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