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Every year, natural disasters devastate thousands of individuals and families. While the destruction often takes only minutes, the result is a long-term struggle for many survivors, first responders, and the communities affected.
The Salvation Army of Greater New York takes great pride in its history of disaster response work - notably following the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001, Superstorm Sandy in 2012, and more localized disasters like fires, gas explosions, and water main breaks.
We have been an integral part of the Superstorm Sandy recovery efforts working with our nonprofit and government partners to address long-term ramifications of the devastation brought to the tri-state area. We also have provided support for evacuees who came to New York after being displaced by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Our Emergency Services team focuses not only on disaster response and recovery but also on mitigation and preparedness. To ensure long-term recovery, we work with affected families, teach disaster preparedness workshops, and provide direct financial assistance where needed.
In 2018, 133,284 different homeless men, women, and children slept in the New York City municipal shelter system, including 45,600 homeless children. This does not include the roughly 4,000 individuals sleeping on the streets of New York City each night.
The Salvation Army of Greater New York provides long-term shelter to those experiencing homelessness through two family shelters and one adult Mentally Ill Chemically Addicted (MICA) shelter in New York City. We also work with our partners to provide emergency short-term shelter.
Addressing homelessness as a slow moving disaster, our Emergency Services staff are active members and leaders in the Rescue Alliance coalition, coordinating Don’t Walk By every February - an annual winter outreach to New Yorkers experiencing homelessness. In addition, The Salvation Army recently expanded its presence in the community through mobile social service units, which are fully equipped vans staffed with certified personnel.
The Social Service Response Unit (SSRU) targets vulnerable individuals on the street, including but not limited to individuals experiencing chronic homelessness. Staff in the SSRU ease these individuals’ burdens through the distribution of items including new socks, hygiene kits, gloves, coats, as well as coffee and hot chocolate.
Through repeated and consistent contact, staff develop a relationship where these individuals begin to form a trusted connection. Through this trusted relationship, we have witnessed these individuals become more open to receiving information and referral to our own social service programming, as well as those of our partnerships with nonprofit and government agencies. We have experienced success through this program and are excited to see it expand and grow to additional Salvation Army locations that take part in mobile ministry.
The desired goal of this program is for these individuals to achieve sustainable long-term recovery. Our hope is that as program capacity increases, development of unique program elements to address known service gaps (e.g. podiatry care, haircuts, shower services, substance misuse treatment, pet care, etc.) will occur.
With a presence in almost every ZIP code in America, The Salvation Army is poised to respond to the unique needs of people living in poverty. These challenges are exponentially magnified during times of crisis, including pandemics like coronavirus (COVID-19). Now, so many who never imagined being in crisis and needing our help, are coming to us for the very first time. It humbles us to know that we are their source of comfort at their point of hardship.
Across the United States, we are stepping up to the challenge and continue to serve the most vulnerable populations in each community.
While adhering to all federal and local government mandates and guidelines, The Salvation Army is considered an ‘essential business’ and has continued offering food through grab-and-go meals and food pantries. Locations are also providing hygiene kits to those experiencing homelessness who are not in a position to maintain the same health standards while living on the streets.
Nearly one-third of food pantries in the five boroughs have already shut down as they struggle to feed the growing number of New Yorkers left jobless by the COVID-19 pandemic that has shuttered thousands of businesses.* Pantries that are able to stay open are struggling with increased demand and lack of personnel. It’s even harder for pantries to stay open as staff and volunteers get sick and they close their facilities for cleaning.
As the crisis begins to fade, our team will continue to work with affected individuals and families on a long-term recovery plan to get them on a path to stability.