Friday, August 9, 2013

@RedCrossNY Auto Updates - the Stories Behind the Tweets

People who follow the Greater New York Red Cross on Twitter are familiar with our “Red Cross auto updates” that appear on our feed anywhere between five and 20 times a day. When our region concludes a disaster response, an email is automatically generated with basic information about that incident and sent directly to Twitter.

What is not always evident from these posts, though, is that behind each tweet is an individual, a family, or a group of families who have had their lives turned upside down by disaster. That’s where the Red Cross comes in, to help them start to get their lives back on track. Here are two of those stories:

José Rodriguez has shared a seventh floor apartment in Manhattan with his mother for the past five years. On July 22, he and his mom were visiting his brother in the Bronx. They returned home around 11 pm to find six fire trucks in front of the building.

The damage to the apartment was so extensive the family could no longer live there. On scene, two Red Cross disaster responders reached out to José.

José and his mother
They told him the Red Cross could help with housing if he and his mom had nowhere to stay.

"It doesn't get better than that,” José said. “They gave us two nights in a hotel, money and hygiene kits."

José and his mom spoke with a Red Cross caseworker at regional headquarters in Manhattan in the days after the fire; he said she was also very helpful.

"Without the Red Cross, we would be living on the street,” José said. “We have no place to stay …. We lost everything.”

José’s mother, who speaks only Spanish, leaned over and said something to him. José translated her words: "Thank God the Red Cross is here to help us."

Maurice Porter and his family of six—his wife, three sons and a daughter-in-law— have lived in a two-story house in the Clifton section of Staten Island for the past eight months. The morning of July 17, after walking his wife to the train station, Maurice came home to find his house ablaze and firefighters working to extinguish the flames.

Ultimately, nothing from the house was salvageable. Maurice, whose family had suffered a tragedy months earlier, losing a son to a shooting incident, felt overwhelmed. “I saw flames and I thought: How am I going to take care of my family? I thought we were going to sleep on the street.”

A Red Cross disaster responder was already on the scene. He spoke to Maurice and his son James, who had rushed home after a call from his dad. The responder assured them that the family would have a safe place to sleep; the Red Cross would see to their needs. 

Maurice (right) and son James
Maurice was greatly comforted. “I looked to my right, I saw nobody. I looked to my left, I saw nobody. I looked straight ahead and I saw the Red Cross,” he said.

The Red Cross placed the Porters in a local hotel, provided them with emergency funds for food and clothing, and arranged for the family to meet with a caseworker the next day at the Greater New York office in Manhattan.

The caseworker helped the family work out a plan for life after the fire, walking them through the necessary steps to secure more permanent housing.

“Put it like this ... on a scale of one to ten, the Red Cross was a twenty-five,” Maurice said. “The Red Cross provided everything to make sure we were secure and we could stay together as a family.”

This experience has led Maurice consider volunteering with the Red Cross. He hopes to help other people, in the same way the Red Cross provided assistance to his family.

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