"When [canvasers] identified medical needs or homebound folks, they would give us a call and we would provide our own care to go climb the stairs and make house calls to folks. Checking on someone or going around making prescriptions. We evacuated some people to the hospital if people needed to go. The main concern when we got here was 'were people dying on the up on the 20th floor because there’s no one checking on them and they can’t get down?'"
Posts from the ‘First Responder’ Category
"A lot of the homes were really like disaster zones and there was no one doing any kind of site safety checks and so the first thing we tried to do was go into homes before random volunteers went into them so that we could just make sure there were no oil spills, there was no natural gas fumes, there were no serious hazards beyond what you would normally see with water damage and just kind of build a relationship with the homeowner so that they weren’t in a situation where somebody came in and did half the job but then the volunteers weren’t coming back the next day and so leaving them hanging – like there was a system and we very quickly started keeping track of who we were working for, what they needed, what the sites were like, if there were any hazards, if the stairs were broken, you know. And then we noticed that nobody knew what to do about mold. We knew that mold was going to grow. We knew that we couldn’t use bleach to get rid of it. We knew people who had done that kind of work after Katrina and we knew what needed to happen. And so, that became our focus right away just because that’s actually a really serious public health issue and, you know, can really degrade the structural integrity of a home."
"It took two weeks for full earnest visibility from the government. The trailers started showing up and you saw FEMA in a larger way. They trickled in for sure but their ambitions and their plug into the community was not where I expected them to be. And their nimbleness is clearly not at all possible. So I would say in two weeks we finally saw some support where the first two weeks we were really battling it out as a team of volunteers. And some of the liaisons through the government were really real major government institutional support. What you also saw were people coming out of the woodwork with things that were very important. Like somebody in the community owned a warehouse near the neighborhood, instantly everyone got that information and sent everything that was coming in to that warehouse. So that became a warehouse station, the distribution spots, the churches started coming online as distribution sites happily. And so those things were all in place with volunteers and private help which is a great feeling but it wasn’t a great feeling when two weeks later the ambulances finally show up to the public housing. And we had already created a popup medical clinic in one of our locations that were servicing 200 plus home bound senior citizens and non senior citizens but mostly senior citizens. And we were doing this all within our own means."
"Volunteers would say, 'oh, she doesn't need that much stuff. People are lying to get more stuff and hoard it,' which is upsetting to see, especially because in the beginning, there were more donations than we could have ever given away. But pretty quickly sort of all these internal politics and--- maybe what I would think of as fear of people who are poor or fear of people who need stuff, you know? That was all coming out and being expressed in ways that weren't great by volunteers. So it's hard to talk to people in their apartments and feel like we didn't have the capacity to bring them things, but also knowing that they were going to come and have to wait in a line that you would not want anybody to have to wait in."
" It felt really kind of there was this huge potential for change that I hadn’t felt since Occupy Wall Street so it was exciting as much as it was overwhelming and really sad and difficult. It was just like this could be our moment to really change the dialogue in New York around issues of climate justice and affordable housing and public housing and all of these different things that I’ve been thinking about and my friends have been thinking about for years but now it’s like on everyone’s mind how inadequate NYCHA is, how inadequate our utilities are, all these things. So it was a big moment in that way also."
"When I first started, I thought it was going to be a couple of weeks. Now it's more feeling it's going to be over a year at least. I'd like to see people getting back into their houses feeling more comfortable coming and getting the services that we're offering. But the numbers are increasing, not decreasing. And that's kind of eye opening...we are not back to normal and everyone thinks we are. They think that the storm is past and the damage should be over. And there's houses in this community that haven't even been touched yet. And there's, you know, people just starting the cleaning process. And it's six months later, so now they're tackling mold and mildew and a lot of other issues that we didn't think existed prior."
"Spaces where it was free reign, where the community could organize what it needed, as it needed, seem to create the opportunity for resiliency and health. Here with the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew, there with churches -- mostly churches and like a couple of businesses. I've never thought so well of churches. ... The thing that the churches gave to us was space to organize and assess our needs and then deliver upon them. And there are no other spaces like that, no other spaces like that."
"One of the things we've been starting to explore is helping to develop worker cooperatives because there are so many unemployed people with skills ... I'm really excited about the opportunity to give- to create jobs for people, to create a livelihood that doesn't involve the existing system and doesn't involve people being exploited by people, people making opportunities for themselves."
"And it was pretty frightening, because a disaster takes place and an inevitable outcome is that a lot of organizations that don’t normally communicate with each other are going to communicate with each other, which is abide by the nature of a disaster."
"So they went in, they opened the doors, people immediately came in to start charging their phones and figure out what was going on, and both people who were living in the neighborhood and in the houses came in, and then volunteers, who were I think literally biking around the neighborhood looking for a place to help, found our doors being open, and so pretty quickly people started cooking, dropping off supplies, different kinds of providers showed up, and because we had this physical space, and because we had a staff that was local, and because we had a social media presence, we were pretty quickly at the—at the center of a lot of different supply and demand."
"My job specifically was to deal with the email address that everyone emailed for questions. So I was working, like, from seven in the morning--I'm not kidding--seven in the morning to, like, two in the morning every night for two weeks. Like I didn't leave my house. …So the emails that were coming in were like anywhere from “how can I help” to “you guys aren't doing enough,” to [laughter]…to “I have a truck load of shit from Ohio; how can I get it to you?” But also we would get these frantic emails from people, like “my uncle's in a wheelchair on the twenty-fifth floor in Chinatown, and I'm worried about him, and I can't get down there because I have kids.'"