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NJ struggles to find solutions

BY SUSAN KIM | MANVILLE, N.J. | September 29, 1999

MANVILLE, N.J. (Sept. 29, 1999) -- "Our whole life story is on this

front lawn," said Jerome Carr, standing with his wife Renee amid a

pile of ruined furniture, clothing, children's toys, kitchen

appliances.

"I've just been able to move this refrigerator out here today," he

said, cleaning out rancid food.

The Carrs live in an area of Manville known as "The Lost Valley"

because it repeatedly floods. But never like this, said Carr. "We've

been married for 25 years, and we've never been hit this bad."

When Tropical Storm Floyd threatened their state, they obeyed

evacuation orders, and moved in with relatives, where they still

live. They don't know when they'll be able to return home.

"The (Federal Emergency Management Agency) inspector did come by

today," he said. "The foundation of the house is okay, but all the

drywall and the floor will have to be replaced."

Renee added, "We tried to work here yesterday with our youngest

children, but they didn't understand that they had to wear gloves all

the time and that they can't drink the water."

Now the Carrs will continue their cleanup while their children stay

with relatives.

Lynn Askew, working through Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR), came to

check on the Carrs and other families nearby. "Make sure you ask for

help," she said. "You can't do all this yourself."

Nor can some 8,000 families whose homes were destroyed or damaged

when Floyd swept through wreaking unexpected havoc.

In the community of Bound Brook, where floodwaters and a raging fire

tore through the downtown area, more than 700 people were still

living in shelters Saturday night, according to American Red Cross

reports.

And nearly 600 of them are undocumented as citizens -- meaning they

are ineligible for assistance from FEMA, even though the state has

been declared a federal disaster area.

Many lived in rental properties destroyed by the flood -- and there

are virtually no moderately-priced rental properties in Bound Brook.

"This is a case in which a large group of people are going to have

needs, and a solution is not readily apparent," said Ken Curtin, FEMA

coordinator for the region. "These are people for whom a Presidential

declaration isn't going to be of much help."

Curtin and other response leaders here predict that local churches,

faith-based response organizations, and the Red Cross will play large

-- and for many -- long-term roles in meeting needs of flood

survivors.

Askew said that volunteers were already traveling to Manville and

Bound Brook to help with the cleanup. "We had eight volunteers here

from Zion United Lutheran Church in Brodheadsville, Pa., who were

here before 9 a.m. and left after 4 p.m. They worked on four houses,

and helped with other cleanup, too."

Response leaders wish that there were more volunteer teams -- and

less clothing donations. The Palace Theater in Bound Brook,

designated as a distribution warehouse, has a mound of unsorted used

clothing -- and 330 new pairs of jeans just arrived.

Two more semi-truckloads of clothing are sitting in a county garage

until someone can move them and sort them. "We are not going to take

any more clothing," said the Rev. Lou Kilgore, pastor at the Bound

Brook Presbyterian Church, during a meeting of the local Voluntary

Organizations Active in Disaster.

"I want every organization represented here to agree on this point

right now -- absolutely no more clothing. I want to help people who

have been in the flood right now, and next month I'll help people get

over their hurt feelings about why their help wasn't helpful."

Curtin added, "This will soon be more of a problem than it is a help."

Monetary donations are the best way to help, and already a "Let's

Rebuild" fund has been established by the Bound Brook Ministerium to

serve all flood survivors in need.

Response workers here are emphasizing their role in helping survivors

fill out the paperwork necessary to receive FEMA assistance. "We also

need to make sure people have realistic expectations," said Laura

Porter, a CWS disaster resource consultant.

Part of ensuring realistic expectations is teaching survivors that

filling out initial FEMA paperwork is only the first step, added

Deborah McCauley, another CWS consultant. "They fill that out and

think they're done, but it's a process that takes a long time, and

your request can feel like it's gone down a rabbit hole unless you

know how to follow up."

Curtin added, "One of the most important things you can do as a

response organization is to learn the system of applying for aid on

behalf of the people you're trying to help."

Also, it's important for response groups to know each other's roles

and specialties, added Betsy Metzger, spokesperson for the Red Cross.

"We need to know each organization like the back of our hand and sort

out who's doing what."

Posted September 29, 1999


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