By: Dave Skutnik and Sophie Kluthe
More than a week after Hurricane Isaias left devastating flooding in Southeastern Pennsylvania, the American Red Cross is assisting people in the next step of their recovery, transitioning from the shelter back home or into a new place to stay.
After about a week in a hotel shelter, Montrell Headen, his wife Tiffany and their two children picked up their cleanup kit and comfort kits as they prepared to check out. These items are some of the more than 1,300 relief supplies the Red Cross has provided so far in this recovery effort, along with more than 2,200 overnight shelter stays for displaced residents.
Headen said the damage to his family’s home in Eastwick was so extensive that they were going to stay with loved ones while they look for a new place to live.
“It’s kind of hard for me and my family. My wife was in the hospital for 15 days so that was hard on us with the pandemic and the flood. But we’ve been trying to maintain. The Red Cross has been helping us out pretty good. Feeding us breakfast, lunch and dinner,” he said.
Headen said having a safe place to stay in the days after the flood allowed them to focus on their next steps, and that he appreciated the warmth and kindness of the shelter staff.
“They’ve been great. Nice people. I love the Red Cross.”
Headen is one of more than 350 people the Red Cross provided emergency shelter for in the widespread flooding that occurred regionwide after Hurricane Isaias. Together with community partners, the Red Cross served more than 3,300 meals and snacks, and more than 100 Red Cross workers have been providing around-the-clock care and comfort to displaced families.
Jennifer Nesbitt also lived in the Eastwick neighborhood of Philadelphia and said this is the third time they’ve dealt with major flooding. She and her daughters were staying in another Red Cross shelter, and said the August 4th flood not only brought physical damage, but emotional stress as well.
“My home, looking at the water line, it was close to six feet of murky water,” she said. “It impacted me, I was very impacted. Not only looking at my home, but emotional feelings because we’ve been there before.”
Adding to the toll, the Coronavirus pandemic, which Nesbitt said had a large impact on her family.
“My daughters and I, we have been quarantined since March, in our home, because I’m immune compromised, and I have a special needs daughter that’s immune compromised. So this is the most I’ve been around anyone since March,” she said.
Despite living through circumstances that many people will only read about, Nesbitt says she has been able to find some positives, pointing to the people who volunteered their time and effort to provide support to those displaced.
“The Red Cross came along and they were our saving grace because they offered us lodging, and food, and comfort of a conversation in listening to what we were going through. So I want to commend the Red Cross very much, for being there for us. And everybody’s been doing it with a smile,” she said.
Red Cross support doesn’t end when people leave the shelter. Each family leaves with comfort kits containing personal care items to get them through the next few weeks. They’re also given a cleanup kit with supplies to help them clean and disinfect flooded homes. Each family is also set up with a recovery specialist who helps them plan next steps and connect them with other organizations that specialize in solving problems, like where to get new furniture, or assistance with looking for new housing.
This Red Cross Disaster operation is far from over. And with a permanent presence in Southeastern Pennsylvania, the Red Cross will continue its mission of alleviating suffering and caring for communities in this region.