Are spirits healing in NYC?

BY SUSAN KIM | NEW YORK CITY, NY | May 15, 2002



"A lot of people still have psychological problems due to the tragedy."

—Debra Gaines


NEW YORK CITY (May 15, 2002) -- Who's minding the

spiritual health of New York City? Thousands of people

are still hurting in unexpected ways.

Faith-based leaders are lending "a listening ear," said

Debra Gaines, a care manager with Project Life, a faith-

based spiritual care program affiliated with Lutheran

Social Services.

And whether spiritual care comes from a local church,

Project Life, Church World Service, or any of the other

faith-based organizations working in New York City,

faith-based leaders are concerned about mind, body, and

spirit.

"A lot of people still have psychological problems due

to the tragedy," said Gaines.

But just as many are suffering financially. "A lot can't

find work," she added. Thousands of people in the

service or airline industry -- bellhops, cab drivers,

and caterers, for example -- lost their jobs shortly

after the terrorist attacks.

People who visit Project Life's offices might get

information about agencies in town that offer job

training, counseling, or other services. They might get

a friend to go with them to apply for federal or state

aid. They might take home a food voucher or a metro

card. They might talk about their faith in the face of

disaster. And they might get a prayer said with them and

for them.

"We come from a holistic viewpoint," said Gaines.

And it's a viewpoint that's there for the long haul --

long after short-term emergency relief groups have left.

"Our whole philosophy is we're not there for the quick

fix," explained Janet Bouman, who coordinates the work

of Project Life's care managers. "We have to consider

the whole person. We spend more time with people.Ó

Gaines explained, žIt's care manager -- not case

manager. We don't have cases here. We have care."

"And we don't close cases," added Bouman. "We put them

in a file and call them back in three months and make

sure they're okay."

As the months go by since 9/11, public attention from

those affected is waning -- but the demand for spiritual

care is rising.

With seven full-time care managers, Project Life has up

to 700 people currently on a waiting list. And care

managers spend as much time as is needed with each

client because "we're more concerned with quality than

quantity," said Gaines.

Multiply the 700-person waiting list by tenfold since

Project Life is only one of multiple denominational and

ecumenical groups working in New York City.

If pushed to pick the most pressing issue, leaders of

these groups say unemployment is the number-one problem.

Ask them what they need to help them care for New

Yorkers, and they say: jobs.

Job training programs are a start, explained Gaines, but

people have to support their families while they're

learning a new skill. "For you to offer somebody

training they need to sustain themselves while training.

It's not like people can afford to go to school," she

pointed out.

In addition, many people are unable to receive federal

or state services -- or they're afraid to ask --

"because they're undocumented," said Bouman.

Now that unemployment since 9/11 has stretched out to

eight months for many people, eviction rates are rising.

In addition, many are relocating because their homes,

while not structurally damaged, are inundated with

harmful toxins.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will lead an

effort to clean up and test apartments south of Canal

Street in Lower Manhattan that were fouled by the and

ash. The move comes months after the agency said indoor

spaces were the responsibility of owners and residents,

not the government.

Now any residents of Canal Street will be able to call

an EPA number and have their apartments cleaned at

government expense. Details of how exactly people will

request a cleanup were not yet released.

But for now those outside of the designated Canal Street

or other EPA-designated areas will continue to have to

deal themselves with a potentially harmful environment.

Some 20,000 people live within half a mile of the World

Trade Center.

And the American Lung Association estimates that a

professional cleanup costs about $1.50 per square foot,

or $1,500 for a 1,000-square-foot apartment.

That's out of reach financially for many people, leaders

of faith-based groups said. "People have to relocate

where they've lived for years," said Gaines, and Bouman

said she expects to see "more and more people with lung

disturbances."

Another difference between groups such as Project Life

and other, more short-term relief groups is that Project

Life doesn't have neighborhood boundaries when it comes

to who's eligible to receive post 9/11 assistance.

"We don't have a geographical area. Thank God it's not

like that with us," said Gaines.

Financial donations to responding groups are the best

way to help, many faith-based leaders reported.

And, as time goes on groups such as Project Life might

be able to use volunteers "for answering phones and

taking down information," said Bouman.


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