On October 23, 2013, approaching the one year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, the Human Services Council and 130 leaders of the nonprofit, public, and philanthropic sectors met to discuss recent findings about the nonprofit human services sector’s response to Superstorm Sandy, continuing recovery efforts, and approaches to preparing for the next disaster. HSC presented the results from “Far From Home: Nonprofits Assess Sandy Recovery and Disaster Preparedness” a survey conducted in conjunction with School of Public Affairs Baruch College, CUNY Center for Nonprofit Strategy and Management and Baruch College Survey Research.
The survey provides insights into the role of human services organizations in Sandy relief and recovery, the types of the services they have provided, the impact of the storm and recovery efforts on the sector, the extent of unmet community needs, the quality of relief coordination, and strategies to accelerate recovery.
Among the key survey findings:
- 58% of organizations said that housing issues have impeded their ability to provide other services.
- Fewer than 28% of the organizations feel that the needs of half the people in the communities they are serving have been met.
- A lack of consensus about which government agencies were in charge – FEMA (39.4%) vs. the NYC Mayor’s Office (30.8%) – indicates a lack of clarity regarding leadership roles.
- More than half of the nonprofits reported damage to their facilities or infrastructure, and 60% said they expect only partial or no reimbursement, severely impacting their ability to serve clients.
The day included a keynote address from Linda I. Gibbs, NYC Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services, an address from Robert G. Ottenhoff, President and CEO of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP), highlighting the national perspective of disaster preparedness, and sessions on case management, housing, volunteerism, immigrant issues, and disaster preparedness. A schedule of the day can be found here.
A theme running throughout the day was the need for more disaster preparedness by individual organizations, the nonprofit sector as a cohesive unit, and in coordination with government partners. Additionally, while a session was held on housing specifically, all the panels discussed how the lack of affordable housing in New York City created barriers to helping people impacted by Sandy, and continues to be an issue to serve those still in need.
The day was filled with the insight of those on the ground during Sandy, and the lessons we can carry forward as we prepare for the next disaster. The clear message to take away was that planning and preparation for disaster is on ongoing process and our work is far from over.
Contributed by Michelle Jackson of the Human Services Council.