Exactly one year ago, University Settlement staff and volunteers prepared to return to our Lower East Side headquarters, power having finally been restored after nearly a week without it. But our work in the neighborhood had never stopped: immediately after the storm, US staff and volunteers were on the ground delivering emergency assistance, including food, water and supplies. During the weeks and months after, we continued providing vital services in response to Sandy's devastation, including:
- Providing emergency funds to help families avoid eviction due to lost earnings
- Connecting those who lost their homes or belongings to the resources available to them
- Providing warm meals and continuity to homebound seniors
- Counseling those suffering the trauma of dislocation and the stress associated with the next storm season
- Giving families and youth a place to connect and take part in community activities
Our work continues today with various efforts to ensure our community is better prepared for what lies ahead, including:
Neighborhood-Building Door-to-Door Support with Project HOPE
In the aftermath of the storm, University Settlement was chosen as one of a small group of citywide agencies to provide free, confidential crisis counseling and links to resources for New York City residents impacted by the storm through a FEMA-funded program called Project HOPE. Trained counselors are rooted in the community, providing individual and group counseling plus educational workshops helping individuals, families, schools, businesses and community groups successfully cope. Over the past year, we have served more than 30,000 individuals and hosted 16 community building events, reaching thousands more. Additionally, we have been instrumental in providing culturally appropriate and effective translations of citywide Project HOPE materials into Chinese. In fact, our team is such a well-respected resource for the Chinese community that we have been asked to expand our services to additional communities, including Coney Island.
Making Sure the Neighborhood is Ready for Whatever Comes Next
University Settlement was chosen to co-lead the Lower East Side Long-term Recovery Group, LES Ready! –a coalition of over 70 community groups and institutions whose mission is to drive collaboration and solicit meaningful feedback from community members in order to better prepare for future emergencies. One of our core activities will be to obtain broad community resident input on the responses to Sandy and what could and must be improved for next time, using community surveying, informational sessions and gatherings to gain this input while building community cohesion. Additionally we worked with local news outlet, The Lo Down, to launch a series of articles, authored by members of LES Ready!, and filled with useful tips and advice for preparing for the next storm.
Partnering with the Experts to Create Innovative Solutions for Disaster Preparedness
We are honored to have been awarded a very special grant from the Salesforce.com Foundation in support of our Hurricane Sandy Relief & Recovery Project efforts. In particular, Salesforce is supporting an innovative approach to information tracking and analysis that involves the development of a specific data platform and the use of tablets in the field, during our door-to-door outreach. This new technology makes it both easier to track and manage information, to more instantly connect individuals to needed resources, and to spot trends so that we know what kinds of resources are needed and where.
The Lower East Side and New York City have progressed dramatically in the year since Hurricane Sandy. We are deeply grateful for your support during this time, as well – thanks to the support of people like you, University Settlement has been able to serve tens of thousands of neighbors who are least able to bounce back when disaster strikes.