I have never even come close to being part of a disaster. Besides a little water in the basement, the flooding from Hurricane Ida did not affect me. I was however, a witness to Ida’s destruction of property and the complete disruption of the lives of families.
A day after the remnants of Ida dropped her record-breaking load on Englewood, New Jersey, a colleague escorted me into the neighborhoods to view the damage. Even her distressed look and vivid accounts of the area did not prepare me for what I saw. Apartments were full of mud and cars piled on each other as if they were toys, children running through puddles mixed with sewer water, and the entire contents of peoples’ homes out on the sidewalk for garbage pickup. Parents tried to make sense of what happened. It was a terrible day.
But then the generosity of the human spirit began to shine. Volunteers from all over the city converged on 111 West Street, one of the hardest hit areas, asking how they could help. Family Promise arranged to have 500 meals from local restaurants delivered so traumatized families did not have to worry about having food to eat. Others donated funds for yet unknown needs. People were kinder than you could ever imagine at a time when things could not be worse.
What if we looked at family homelessness as a crisis of equal magnitude – as a natural disaster? What would our response look like? How can we act, vote, and respond in solidarity with families experiencing homelessness to make a real difference?
As the eviction moratorium comes to an end and the number of homeless families increases, these questions need our attention and our immediate and compassionate response.