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

Staten Island’s FEMA centers to close as NY State takes reins

The city is gradually preparing to hand over the bulk of long-term Hurricane Sandy relief to the state and the efforts are expected to be managed by Catholic Charities.

The first infusion of FEMA Sandy funding went directly to the city but the second wave is expected to be funneled through the state.

However, the exact timeline for the switch-over hasn’t been established, and once it starts, the transition is expected to take close to two months.

Sources have told the Advance that the Staten Island city Restoration Centers will be shuttered when the state takes control.

“There are no plans to close the SI Restoration Center at this time,” stressed Peter Spencer, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s liaison for Sandy-related matters on the Island, in an e-mail.

Spencer noted that Catholic Charities already has staff at the Restoration Centers, and that agency, as well as other non-profits, already provides casework services for Sandy victims across the city.

“Over the next several weeks, these non-profits will be working with the city to transition into post-Sandy Long Term Disaster Case Management,” Spencer said.

Spencer added that “the Restoration Centers are not meant to be permanent” and any potential decision about shuttering them will be based on need.

Catholic Charities, Spencer said, is in negotiations to be the managing agent for the state’s Long Term Disaster Case Management contract, which hasn’t been finalized.

Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities, confirmed that his organization is in talks with both the city and the state. The plan is for Catholic Charities to oversee the long-term relief efforts with a number of other local human service providers throughout the city, Long Island and other counties throughout the state impacted by Sandy.

“I’m expecting it to be a very smooth transition,” Monsignor Sullivan said.

“I expect the providers, city and state to be cooperative. I think this will be excellent for the sake of people who need long-term help.”

Catholic Charities is poised to partner with about 10 or 15 different non-profit organizations that have experience in providing long-term disaster case management. “The Restoration Centers were set up as immediate, one-stop places to deal with the needs immediately after the hurricane,” Monsignor Sullivan said. “They were never intended to be permanent places.”

Catholic Charities is taking its program already in place for assisting families impacted by Hurricanes Irene and Lee and applying it to Hurricane Sandy victims.

“The caseworks service is about knowing what is available and where, and guiding people to them and ensuring they get those services,” Spencer said.

For example, if a client needed food and or housing information, the long term disaster case management provider would guide him or her to various city agencies or other resources and follow up to make sure that they were received, Spencer explained.

Meanwhile, the Staten Island Interfaith Disaster Response Coalition will be streaming the governor’s State of the State address live at its Wednesday morning meeting of Island religious leaders and relief organizations at the Unitarian Church of Staten Island in New Brighton. The group sponsored by Staten Island Clergy Leadership intends to respond to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s address as a coalition in addition to its ongoing role of sharing relief resources and trying to create a long-term recovery plan for Sandy.

Spokespeople from FDNY Crisis Counseling and the immigrant advocacy group Make the Road New York are expected to make presentations at the meeting.

Last week’s coalition meeting attracted 25 representatives including those from FEMA, the Red Cross, City Harvest, the New York State Nurses Association, the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, Where-To-Turn, Occupy Sandy and the Building Bridges Coalition of Staten Island. Meetings also are planned for noon to 2 p.m. on Jan. 16, 23 and 30 in the Unitarian Church. For information, call the Rev. Terry Troia at Project Hospitality at 718-448-1544.

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