Feeling helpless and guilty post-disaster feels like part of grieving. The main thing that helps is to find ways to take action, and to find community and support. So here’s an update on some of what we know about our program partners, friends and communities in need, and ways you can help (after the jump). This is by far not a comprehensive list – it is more an impressionistic account of some of what is swirling around NYWC’s world.
Our Program Partners/Friends/Communities
Here’s some of what we know so far:
Ali Forney Center: The Ali Forney Center’s drop-in Day Center in Chelsea, where we ran a writing workshop for many years, beginning the week it opened seven years ago, was devastated by the storm and won’t re-open. The Center provided homeless LGBT youth with medical care, social services, and activities like our workshop. Read more here.
Bayview Correctional Facility in Chelsea is a women’s prison where we have led workshops for a few years. The women were evacuated prior to the storm, and it seems the prison won’t re-open for quite a while. It is unclear what will happen for the women getting their degree through the Bard Prison Initiative who were sent to facilities all over the state and obviously can no longer attend classes at Bayview.
New Alternatives: Especially with Ali Forney’s day center gone, New Alternatives for Homeless Youth is an incredibly important resource for LGBT homeless youth who may be unsafe anywhere else. They were open today, but lost all their food due to power outages.
Friends of Firefighters: This amazing group in Red Hook is housed in an old firehouse. They provide support services to firefighters and their families and is an important resource for people that save others daily. Their building was severely flooded, yet the organization is helping find temporary housing for displaced firefighters, many of whom live in devastated areas like Breezy Point, Staten Island and the Rockaways. I was walking into Red Hook the day after the storm and happened across them beginning to throw things away, and helped a little. So much was ruined, including 2 cars parked inside the building. Read more about them here.
Brooklyn Public Library, Coney Island: We have led a workshop for teens here for years. we love those kids so much. I can’t really write about it without losing it, , so just am going to paste in part of the email we got from the librarian there. Once we know more ways to help, we will spread the word.
On behalf of the Coney Island Staff and residents…Thank You. Almost all of my staff were affected by the storm. They live in Coney and Sea Gate. I live in Sheepshead Bay and didn’t have power until last night. Some of my staff still don’t have running water.
The Coney Island Library was hit hard. The first floor had over 8ft of water. They are projecting that it will be closed for at least six months. I don’t know where the staff will be placed.
Once again thank you for your kind offer of going to clean up. I will send you some info about cleanup efforts in Coney Island.
Ways to Help/Place to Donate
Red Hook Initiative has been doing great work coordinating volunteers and helping those affected. Follow their facebook page and check often for the latest update on how to volunteer. For those outside NYC looking to donate money, this is the organization that I personally have donated the most money to so far, after seeing close up exactly what they are doing.
Occupy Sandy has been organizing amazing and effective efforts to help on the ground, faster and with more flexibility so far than government agencies. Info on how to volunteer and donate is on their facebook page.
Edit: Forgot this link which I intended to include: The Brooklyn Community Foundation has set up a relief fund – they have tons of experience distributing grants to great organizations (they were our first funder and still support us). I trust them to handle our money smartly.
Like I said, that is just a litltle bit of what is going on. Things are changing day by day. Thanks to everyone all over the world who have checked in with us. NYWC and our entire staff are all fine, and luckily not in any areas that were hit hardest by the storm.
It is hard to write and talk about feeling powerless (literally and figuratively) in a city that seems invincible. For us, the city’s man-made landscape sometimes feels like it is nature. The skyline can be as beautiful a sight as any mountain range. But when storms and floods come, we realize how vulnerable we all are.
As our Governor said today, New Yorkers are known for being tough, but we also are giving, generous, caring, sweet, tenacious and ferocious. One thing that Sandy further exposed for all of us working with people on the margins is why it is so important to address basic inequities all year long. When disaster strikes, those living from paycheck to paycheck, or a fixed income, are even more in peril than others.
It was especially striking to go down to Red Hook, a Brooklyn area with a very large amount of public housing, and see residents lined up around the block to get basics like food, water, paper towels and diapers. Every single person on line was a person of color, and inside the donation center, most of us dropping things off were, like me, white. It was as start a statement about privilege as there could be.
NYWC will continue to find ways to use creative writing to support those living on the margins, and we are already discussing what we can do for storm victims and first responders and volunteers once the immediate crisis is over. This is going to be a long-term recovery process, and we are thankful that we have a lot of experience with things that take time and community to get through.