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?