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Hurricane Sandy impacts New Jersey and NYC homeless harder than most

unionbeachdonations111012_optBY ERIK BRAUNITZER
COMMENTARY

The severity of Hurricane Sandy has caused a considerable amount of damage to the East Coast of the US. People experiencing homelessness are among the worst impacted, and in the majority of these natural disaster cases, they are also the most commonly overlooked. During the worst moments of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Irene, some long-term shelter residents remained outside, where they faced conditions that had already caused a number of fatalities. The same can be said for Hurricane Sandy when homeless shelters were shut down due to overcapacity and limited resources. Hurricane Sandy's impact on homeless shelters has been largely detrimental, and the difficulties many people who are homeless face have been compounded as a result. In times like these, it is essential that people without a regular, fixed residence are not forgotten and are able to maintain links to supportive services.

New Jersey residents are no strangers to hurricanes and tropical storms. Since the damaging effects of Sandy, residents are now assessing the cost of damages to homes and property. While many New Jersey natives are still waiting to return to their homes, some have nowhere to return to at all.

The nation's sympathy is with all of Hurricane Sandy's victims. While everyone experiences hardships under these circumstances, the impact of Sandy on New Jersey homeless has been particularly devastating.

After the first wave of the storm, temporarily homeless flocked to shelters and other safe locations such as airports and bus stations. Although available shelter from the storm was limited, it has been widely reported that New Jersey officials took great efforts to accommodate both currently homeless and those with no other safe place at the time.

Unlike homeless residents, those that owned property will likely be able to repair their homes due to insurance policies. Those who are not insured may find themselves in the same situation as existing homeless residents of the state. Officials and citizens of New Jersey may have pulled together to aid the homeless during the wake of the storm, but these less fortunate residents will likely be forgotten after emergency aid is no longer available.

In time, many residents will rebuild and return to their lives as usual. Sadly enough, the very same is true for New Jersey's homeless population. The increasing demand put on shelters has already made safe resting places more difficult to find for many homeless citizens.

Emergency aid will be made available for some time, but as food supplies diminish, it will become harder for the homeless to obtain food after property owners get back to business as usual. According to many sources, New Jersey put forth a great effort to ensure equal availability of help to all classes of citizens. It is important to realize however, that after homeowners are no longer without a place to stay, homeless residents must continue their hardships on the streets.

New Jersey residents pulled together to help one another during the Sandy disaster, but will probably soon forget about those people who have nothing to rebuild and nowhere to return to. If everyday was treated like Hurricane Sandy, many New Jersey homeless people could get the need to regain the lives they once had or build a better one for the future.

In New York City, The Ali Forney Center, a drop-in center that is focused on aiding LGBTQ young adults experiencing homelessness, suffered an intense amount of water damage and is no longer able to provide services to the youth who depend on the center's support. Although the Ali Forney Center has found a temporary location, Hurricane Sandy rendered its original facilities useless. Similar situations have occurred across the East Coast. The Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission, which is located in Philadelphia, has also suffered significant setbacks. According to their website, they have had a record number of individuals seek shelter at their facility during Hurricane Sandy's aftermath; however, with this new flow of people, insufficient funds have followed. Donations to homeless service agencies, such as The Ali Forney Center and the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission, will be needed to alleviate Hurricane Sandy's devastating impact on the homeless.

Hurricane Sandy has caused grief to those experiencing chronic homelessness on the East Coast. Many people who are homeless had to sleep outdoors as Hurricane Sandy raged through various cities and towns. The storm caused great destruction, including falling trees, flooding, and power outages. The overall death tool for Hurricane Sandy is upwards of 110, and according to reports, New York City was hit the hardest. Since New York City has more than 40,000 homeless men, women and children, and it can only be speculated that some of them lost their lives during Hurricane Sandy's peak of destruction, while others were more than likely injured.

Hurricane Sandy has provided lessons for the future to ensure that a minimal amount of disruption befalls people experiencing homelessness. Choosing places to sleep that are not near trees or other objects that can easily be knocked over is crucial for survival. Also, ensuring that one's belongings do not get wet is another important task. Those who are homeless often depend on the items that they carry everywhere, and if they become damaged, a seemingly hopeless situation can occur. It is important to always be on the lookout for hurricane safety tips, and if you or a friend meets a homeless person who has been impacted by Hurricane Sandy, offer them a helping hand and warm regards.

Erik Braunitzer is a writer for Douglas Elliman, brokers for NYC, Long Island and Hamptons Real Estate.

 

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