Many people ask “Why don’t they leave and find shelter”, today we are walking the path of the residents of Rockaway. This isn’t an attempt to judge, or criticize any system or tool, as we work with every one of these great groups. The Rockaways residents refer to the situation best when they say “it is what it is”. This is to help the public understand the challenges on the ground at the local level.
Hurricane Sandy struck the Rockaways on Monday October 29, Humanity Road arrived on Sunday November 4. Gas was being rationed, and there were no gas cans to be bought in any store that we passed once we crossed the NJ/NY state line. Once we arrived on Rockaway Peninsula, there was no power for 17 miles and therefore no shelters and no gas. With power out, seven days into the disaster many citizens had no way to listen to radio, TV or even make a phone call. They came to the church for news. We searched the Red Cross tool and discovered that the closest Red Cross shelter was located more than 21 miles away.
On Wednesday November 7 the day of the Nor’easter, we were notified that a bus was being made available to transport anyone willing off the island to the closest shelter. Flyers were printed, and hurried out the door to as many locations that could possibly be reached. One apartment complex alone contains 800 apartments in three different buildings 12 stories high. How do you reach that many that quickly with only a few hours? Some residents, who have working cars, have no gas, or no way to carry the gas back to their cars, and some can’t even navigate the stairs due to mobility issues with elevators not working.
But assuming I can overcome all these challenges; where can I go for shelter?
Today is November 21, 2012 and it has been more than 20 days since Rockaway Peninsula New York was devastated by the historic storm known as Sandy. As part of our mission statement, again today we tried researching available shelter for zip code 11694 which is the location of St. Francis De Sales church and School in Belle Harbor. The search returned three separate suggestions from three separate shelter finder tools in three different directions. Here are the results.
According to the Google Crisis Map, the nearest shelter is at Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School at 5800 20th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11204, USA which is just under 10 miles away north of Rockaway. Google Crisis Map provides ability to navigate to this location which is very helpful. Source: http://www.google.org/crisismap/2012-sandy-ny However, according to NYC.Gov the large shelters are now closed and the public is urged to go to the Disaster Recovery Centers. Source: http://www.nyc.gov/html/misc/html/2012/hurricane_shelters.html .
According to the Red Cross Shelter Finder, there are three shelters nearby but I cannot tell which one is nearest. The shelter finder tool does not give directions to the site. It does however, show the address and a DONATE NOW hyper link to make it easy for displaced persons looking for shelter to donate to Red Cross right from the shelter finder tool. [Question? Is it in bad form to request a donation from someone who is in the midst of disaster and seeking shelter?]. It would be more helpful to have placed a mapping tool hyperlink to assist the displaced person in navigating to the shelter. Source: http://www.redcross.org/find-help/shelter
FEMA advises the public to send a text message to inquire about the nearest shelter. Source: http://www.fema.gov/sandyAfter sending a message saying ‘Shelter 11694’, the response I received said the nearest shelter is the Mt Manresa Jesuit Retreat Center, 239 Fingerboard road, Staten Island, NY 10305 but the response warned to ‘check with your local emergency management agency for availability and services’. According to Google maps, this location is 15 miles to the West.
So far, there is a possibility of three separate locations not quite confirmed they are available to me, not all from the Red Cross and no idea how I could get there, who I should call before going to confirm that they are still open, or who how or where to inquire on how I could be transported there.
Today is day 23, just another day on Rockaway.