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Know Your Rights
Subject: Housing & Environmental Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Mayor’s office reaching out to Staten Island immigrants impacted by Hurricane Sandy

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — In an initiative that responds to requests by Staten Island advocacy groups, outreach teams comprising workers from community-based organizations will be going into the neighborhoods hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy and assessing the recovery needs of immigrants in advance of the Jan. 28 deadline for application to FEMA.

The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Fatima Shama on Thursday announced the creation of the non-profit outreach teams, which will be coordinated by the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies. Funding for the outreach is provided by the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City.

“Our city is committed to ensuring that our immigrant communities are able to access the services they need to recover from the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy,” Ms. Shama said.

“Deploying teams of outreach workers to the hardest-hit communities will help us connect immigrant households with disaster-related services and understand what the greatest needs will be as the city moves into long-term recovery and disaster case management.”

The bilingual teams are expected to begin canvassing next week in an effort to reach as many as 6,000 immigrant households on the Island and in Brooklyn and Queens over the next eight weeks. El Centro del Inmigrante and Project Hospitality will staff the teams in this borough.

Outreach workers will be knowledgeable about services including food and nutrition assistance, counseling, medical and health-related issues and legal assistance. They will target eligible families who have yet to register and help them apply, according to Immigrant Affairs.

Additionally, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs is working with the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation to provide financial assistance to immigrant New Yorkers affected by Hurricane Sandy who have yet to receive aid from other sources, through referrals by select community-based partners.

The outreach program comes on the heels of a Make the Road New York survey reported in the Advance this week that indicated a whopping 60 percent of the immigrants in South Beach, Midland Beach, New Dorp Beach and Oakwood reported economic damage, with 40 percent displaced from their homes.

However, only 22 percent of immigrants surveyed in the borough and on Long Island had applied for public or private relief; the percentage was even lower, 18 percent, for those with limited English.

The outreach program is based on immigrant-focused presentations in December by El Centro, Project Hospitality and others organizations at a policy forum that included a number of high-ranking city officials as well as FEMA leaders, said the Rev. Terry Troia, executive director of Project Hospitality.

“We are glad for the outreach efforts of a city that was built and is sustained by the sweat and blood of immigrants,” Rev. Troia said.

FEMA requires that at least one member per family have a U.S. birth certificate or Social Security number to apply.

The Staten Island Interfaith Disaster Response Coalition will host FEMA Assistance Days every Saturday and Sunday through the end of January from noon to 4 p.m. at the Olympia Activity Center at 1128 Olympia Blvd. Assistance will be available in languages including English, Spanish, Russian and Polish.

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