On February 27th, a second symposium was held in Manhattan to highlight and discuss where we stood as a city in the recovery effort post-Sandy. Peter Cavadini, the Partnerships Coordinator for New York Disaster Interfaith Services, gave this report, cut and pasted below, discussing the importance and role volunteer rebuild organizations have played and will play in the recovery effort. Resurrection Brooklyn was invited to sit on a panel that followed Peter’s address.
Peter Cavadini’s address:
Good afternoon everyone, I am Peter Cavadini, the Partnerships Coordinator for NYDIS’ Volunteer Group Housing Program. I do not represent a rebuild organization, but I am part of a NYC VOAD Committee which undertook the task of learning more about the NYC voluntary rebuild community. I’m going to be speaking on behalf of this committee to give you some general information about these groups, and hopefully at the end of this session you will know more about the local rebuild effort.
1. 19 voluntary programs = 1,120 rebuild projects in 2014
I’d like to start by giving you some basic facts about the voluntary rebuild effort:
- The 19 voluntary rebuild programs active in NYC are projected to provide 1,120 rebuild projects (955 homes) during 2014.
- About half of these projects will take place on Staten Island, and a quarter each in Brooklyn and Queens.
- There are 8 rebuilds on Staten Island, 7 in Brooklyn, and 4 in Queens. And the majority of rebuild groups are local, not national, by a ratio of 2:1.The rebuild organizations have their limitations and it is important to know what they are, so that we can work effectively with them.
By and large, these organizations all provide the same services. The projects they undertake are non-structural in nature: sheet rocking, flooring, painting, muck and gut, insulation, beautification, cabinets, light carpentry, and things of this nature.
Disaster Case Managers – Voluntary organizations do provide electrical and plumbing work, but this does not mean that a non-licensed volunteer is going to do the electrical or plumbing work in your clients’ home. If a voluntary agency performs these services, and most do, it will be through a licensed professional contractor, in accordance with the law. The voluntary sector has to pay for these services the same as everyone else.
This is a very important point to understand – a voluntary rebuild is not going to fully reconstruct your client’s destroyed home by themselves, nor are there any nonprofits currently elevating homes. We don’t have the level of funding necessary for these projects.
These are the basic facts we will take into context moving forward. The voluntary rebuild community does not have an endless supply of labor or materials with which to service every needy family affected by Sandy.
This leads to my second point:
2. Voluntary rebuilds attempt to fill the gap between lack of personal finances and available public assistance.
When it comes down to it, Sandy was a personal disaster for everyone it affected. But looking at the event through a broader lens, Sandy was a disaster of economics and infrastructure, and the nonprofit rebuilds are a major part of the infrastructure recovery effort.
Up to now, every under-resourced homeowner who has received rebuild services, has gotten them from a voluntary rebuild organization. Every single person who could not afford their repairs, and is now living in a safe home, is there because a nonprofit organization made them whole again. I want everyone in this room to understand this point. After FEMA, SBA, and insurance monies, if a family still needed assistance to make their home livable – up to now that assistance has come from a voluntary rebuild organization. And this year, those same organizations will put 1,000 more families back into their homes. They have been working since the Sandy response began and, with proper support will continue on after the government programs finish.
Some people understand that the voluntary organizations and the government rebuild efforts are separate. This is incorrect. The Sandy rebuild is a single effort, and must be viewed as such. The voluntary sector is augmenting what individual finance and government assistance can do for affected homeowners. We address the gap between what individuals and the government can and cannot do. Although we can do a lot, the volunteer sector does not have the capacity to engage survivors on as massive a scale as the government does, likewise the government does not have the malleability or immediacy the volunteer sector possesses. Although there is currently some formal cooperation between these two sectors through LISC, government and the voluntary rebuilds need each other more than either fully understands. In the coming year, these two sectors must cooperate more fully to ensure as many SuperStorm Sandy survivors as possible gain a full recovery.
Build it Back – Please send the voluntary rebuild organizations your Tier 2 and Tier 3 clients. These families are in need of services that the voluntary rebuilds can readily supply. Do not let these families languish in damaged homes until 2015 – let us help them now.
Which brings me to my final point:
3. A robust, coordinated volunteer rebuild effort is imperative for the recovery of thousands of NYC residents.
At the beginning of this year, the voluntary rebuild effort had largely transformed into a comprehensive community of organizations. But there is still work to be done to make the effort as efficient as possible. Communication between rebuilds themselves, and with the other service sectors need to continually be strengthened. This is the charge I leave with all of you today.
DCMs – talk the rebuild organizations active in your service area. Introduce yourselves and get to know them. They should be one of the most important partners you have in this recovery. If you didn’t have a chance to meet with one today, look through the resource flyer you were emailed yesterday – under “other resources,” there is a spreadsheet called “NYC Rebuild
Organization Contact List.” It is a complete list of the rebuild organizations working in New York City. It details what services they provide, where they work, and who you should contact. Please make sure you use this list.
Rebuilds – Make sure you are in regular communication with your DCM support. They will make sure that your resources and efforts go to the survivors who most need them. They are the link that ensures that even after you finish working on a survivor’s home, that the other lingering needs for a full recovery are met.
Funders and Rebuild Support Groups – The two biggest needs of the rebuild community continue to be funding and skilled volunteers. We must do our utmost to ensure that the voluntary rebuild effort does not falter because of the lack of our support. The very things that make the nonprofit rebuild effort so important, immediacy and malleability, depend upon us.
Transition to the Panel:
The voluntary rebuild effort is not the entire answer to New York City’s rebuild need, but it is a very important part of that answer. The 19 voluntary rebuild organizations in NYC utilized over 61,000 volunteers in 2013. The value of this service was worth over $14 million. We have representatives from four of those organizations sitting before you here today, I’d like you to please welcome them to the conversation with a warm round of applause.
I am joined by :
Jason Rawcliffe, Project Coordinator for The Salvation Army
Tom McDonough, Director of Rebuild and Client Services for The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation
Jennifer Terry, Project Manager for Rebuilding Together NYC
Pastor Brian Steadman, Director of Resurrection Brooklyn Relief