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Moving from Emergency Response to Long-Term Recovery
Two months have passed since fires swept through the North Bay, leaving in their wake incredible destruction and thousands homeless, jobless, and emotionally scarred.
JFCS hit the ground running, working to support the community. Thanks to generous donations from supporters like you, our Sonoma County office has become a community hub where individuals and families are receiving the services they need to re-build their lives and heal. Thank you for your help!
Emergency Response and Ramping Up
In the initial weeks after the fires JFCS staff witnessed survivors in shock. Over 250 families and individuals came for help. We immediately started providing counseling and emotional support, case management, and education for applying to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and filing home/rental insurance claims. We also offered emergency financial assistance—including the distribution of gift cards and bill paying for fire survivors.
Despite the initial crisis being over, new people continue to come in to JFCS daily to receive the support they need on the long road to recovery.
Naomi, 50, lost her mobile home and all her possessions in the blaze. She got to safety with her dog, but with no local family she didn’t know where she would go or how she would pay for a hotel, clothes, and other necessities. JFCS helped her connect to her insurance company, which is now paying for a hotel until February. Since it was impossible for her to get to work due to the blaze, we provided her with financial assistance to cover her lost wages, a computer to replace the one destroyed, and gift cards to buy clothes, toiletries, and food. We’ll be with Naomi during her next transition to permanent housing in the months to come.
As the toll of the fires became fully apparent, JFCS deployed care managers and psychologists from around the Bay Area to Santa Rosa to meet the growing demand for services.
Craig, who has a disability, put on a brave face for his wife and three-year-old daughter after the family’s rental was consumed by flames, but he was overcome with feelings of anxiety and despair. After learning from a JFCS case manager that the agency would be able to help his struggling family with financial assistance and practical support, Craig broke down in tears. Having somewhere to turn took a huge burden off his shoulders.
Long-Term Recovery Work Begins in Earnest
Soon after the fires were out survivors whose homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed started working with their home and rental insurance companies. JFCS co-hosted three standing room only events with United Policyholders, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization. Over 1,400 people came with questions about their claims, and learned how to apply for FEMA assistance.
Now that the initial scurry to file claims has passed, Nancy Masters, JFCS Associate Executive Director, says that JFCS has moved from the response phase to the long-term recovery phase, adding, “We are seeing more needs for emotional support and counseling for survivors and their families because of the challenges of being uprooted, the transitions to new schools, new homes, and sometimes new jobs.”
One young special needs child is receiving counseling from JFCS over the loss of his therapy dog in the fires. He is grieving and he and his family are receiving counseling in order to support his healing.
A Collaborative Response Approach
JFCS has been collaborating with many other organizations in Sonoma County to make sure disaster victims are able to access all the help available to them, and to ensure there are no duplications in services. Local Sonoma County synagogues, IsraAid, Catholic Charities, Jewish Free Clinic, Community Child Care Council of Sonoma, Early Learning Institute, Out of the Ashes, and many more, have played an integral role in helping our community. A special thanks to Taube Philanthropies, Tipping Point Community Emergency Relief Fund, Delivering Good Inc./B Strong, and the many individuals and foundations who have so generously given to help those affected by the fires.
As for Craig and his family, just this week they found long-term housing and now feel like they can catch their breath. His young daughter has asked to see the remains of their burnt-out home and JFCS is providing guidance to the family on how to proceed with that request and many other day-to-day dilemmas. Craig adds, “We are going to be okay. I know that now.”