Article – Why there are no Red Cross shelters in New York City

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, the Red Cross held several emergency training sessions for shelter volunteers (I attended a November 2 session), telling classes that they needed to plan for a three-day stint away from home and be able to lift heavy loads.

But that shelter operation never came to pass, and volunteers were told that the Red Cross would not be needing shelter workers.┬áIn the meantime, images of New York City’s many devastated neighborhoods filled nightly newscasts; and the housing situation for many New Yorkers grew increasingly dire. The city has estimated that between 20,000 and 40,000 residents could be homeless or forced to live in unheated homes with no running water or power. The conditions are particularly deplorable in the high rises that dot the landscape near the waterfront in Brooklyn and Queens. About 5,200 Staten Islanders have applied for FEMA housing, but according to the New York Post only 24 or so have been placed.

Criticism has rained down on the Red Cross for not providing places for this mass of displaced people to live, but it seems that the aid organization is not permitted to set up shelters in the city due to a snarl of red tape.


This doesn’t surprise me. In a political/union heavy environ like NYC it’s a “Brazil”-like experience getting anything done.

Most NYC public schools are old WPA projects from the first third of the twentieth century. They are built like fortresses and usually have very large fenced yards. Excellent staging areas if you don’t mind cancelling classes. Virtually all of them were designated (and stocked) as fallout shelters back in the day. The hurricane hasnt been invented that could knock one down. Fabulous resource, too bad it’s caught up in the usual morass of inefficient local government.

Moral of the story is, even if there are groups predicated on disaster services, and they get to the scene, and local governemnt has plans as well, there’s no guarantee anything is going to get done. You’re far better off preparing on your own.

Which, really, brings me to something I’ve been curious about. Everyone is related to everyone in NYC. Big Catholic, Jewish, Italian, Irish families with relatives spread all over the place….why are these people not staying with relatives? I can understand wanting to stay with your stuff to rpevent looting, but thats a choice. These people in four-story walk-ups complaining about no elevators, no heat, no water, etc…why don’t they head over to their cousins or uncles place and crash in their basement for a week or two?

6 thoughts on “Article – Why there are no Red Cross shelters in New York City

  1. I do not like the Red Cross. That said the housing problem is not their problem. Red cross is set up to provide short term shelter and assistance during an emergency. Cots in a school gym, a few hot meals and some clothing. The Red Cross did not show up after Sandy and this left an empty starting place in the aid chain. For example, First Red Cross shows up, provides aid, takes survivors/displaced persons names, provides some information to survivors as to how/where to seek further aid. Then FEMA is supposed to come in to provide longer term aid and assistance, temporary housing, federal loans, etc. I have a theory why Red Cross and FEMA never has acted after Sandy. On the news it’s always pictures of New Jersey beach property, houses on the beach. We always figure if you live on or near the beach you have money, insurance, etc. So why would these people need help. And you are right about big families in New York and New Jersey, problem is most live close to each other, same neighborhoods, so little to no help there. Unlike Katrina I think Sandy survivors have been ignored because Americans, and our government, view them as mostly white upper middle class people living the high life on the beach or in New York that can fend for themselves. I blame Snookie! Reality is of course different for these people and for what ever reason they have been ignored. Help is not coming.

  2. The uselessness of the Red Cross was demonstrated during Katrina.

    A friend on the MS Gulf Coast noted that the Red Cross was dispised, and that it was a group of hippies that came in on a big bus that set up a soup kitchen that fed people for months. The Town of Waveland had a big parade for the hippies they were so thankful of their efforts. The other noteworthy group were religious based volunteer groups (NC Baptists would have been one) who came out to help build/restore homes. I noticed in my local weekly paper that they are calling for local volunteers to go North and help with Sandy victims so I imagine that at least the Baptists will be back in the thick of it. It looks like the hippies are helping again, but I see the “Occupy” crowd is coopting their message and tagging along for the ride.

  3. Once more from experience:

    As those of us locals on the ground dealt with the realities *and* took care of our friends and neighbors after the fourth major SoCal earthquake in 20 years, (and in no small degree saved the national Red Cross’ bacon) I lost track of the endless parade of incompetent paid staff members from bottom to top, and for months after life returned to normal, ALL with a vacant, shell-shocked, deer-in-the-train’s-headlights look, who kept asking for suggestions on things like where they could put shelters, assistance centers, and pre-stocked supplies for next time, BECAUSE THEY’D NEVER MADE ANY SUCH PLANS OR LOCATION AGREEMENTS AHEAD OF TIME, despite the 20 years and 3 other incidents’ warning.

    They never thought of parking conex boxes full of tents, cots, and blankets in case an earthquake took out rail and freeway bridges.
    They never thought of securing agreements with any of dozens of generator operators and renters who cater to the hundreds of film and TV productions, in case power was out.
    They had never considered that in any quake strong enough, shopping malls would be closed, and are surrounded by acres of easily secured space, with nothing to fall on peoples’ heads, plenty of parking, and stupid-easy access to major roads and streets, right near where everyone lived, so they’d never discussed that with mall mgmt. beforehand either.
    They had no idea where, or if, the cities, state, NG, or FEMA might want or be able to set up makeshift clinics, water/food/meal distribution, or insurance and disaster assistance centers.
    And on and on, even after 4 bites at the apple. And probably don’t today, either.

    OTOH, the Salvation Army had sufficient shelter space for multiple thousands of people up within 24 hours, including portapotties, a feeding operation, a Navy/MC Reserve water purification plant, and disaster assistance help, with security arranged by on-site local PD for the duration. They had an on-site bottled water pickup lane for anyone in need to drive-thru, and which, due to local good people, *gained* more water every day than it handed out. And if something needing doing, they whistled up what they needed, and did it, ASAP.

    I’m sure NY bureaucratic stupidity has contributed it’s fair share, but I’m even more sure the ARC didn’t rise to the occasion, but rather sunk to the level of their preparation. Without someone in the organization beating on subordinates’ heads about the 7 Ps, there’s no motivation to do more than show up with the last 3 ps.

    Anyone who depends on NGOs, the feds, the state, the county, the city, or plain good luck to save them when things get sporty is going to live a short and interesting life on the day Mayhem comes to town.

    • Well said. I saw much the same from the Red Cross when it came to dealing with preparations for wild fires and severe winter storms.

  4. After I retired from the US Army I was bored and looking for something interesting and maybe even useful to do with my suddenly much more available free time.

    I knew a guy who had been volunteering for the Red Cross for a while, and he talked me into applying to them as an on-call volunteer.

    I lasted a couple of months before the endless petty bullshit got to be more than I was willing to tolerate.

    The local RC was domiated by what I can only describe as useless first wives: divorced middle-aged women with no practical skills or relevant educations who had the free time and available income to attend endless do-nothing conferences and “training” that either served no useful purpose or was completely over their heads. They were, of course, convinced of their own intellectual (and moral) superiority and would never deign to listen to people who merely had practical experience of such matters as logistics, the capabilities of cargo trucks, aircraft and railroads, or anything else that might lead to blisters and sweat.

    This led to such idiocy as pallets of emergency supplies — stockpiled at the local RC headquarters — being broken open and moved, a case of water or a bundle of blankets at a time, by hand, piled up until the pallet was bare and could be moved by hand. The contents then moved — again — from their temporary stack back onto the pallet. All because it was a “better investment” of funds to spend hundreds of dollars on vinyl banners for display at various public events than to purchase even a single pallet jack.

    Their inefficient and disorganized handling of emergency supplies led to tremendous waste, of course. I was disgusted with the amount of food and water I was told to throw out because it was over — or merely approaching — its marked expiration date. Even if there were no replacement supplies inbound. God forbid we might have handed out bottled water at a disaster that was a month past its “best by” date! And even more appalling was the policy that all such food and water be destroyed rather than donated to local food banks or homeless shelters; our dumpsters even had locks on them to prevent the local homeless from scavenging anything.

    The national RC was even worse. They wanted money. Constantly. And most of what they took in seemed to go towards glossy fund-raising propaganda to bring in ever more money. Full-time RC employment sure didn’t pay poorly, either.

    The Red Cross can crawl up its own ass and die as far as I’m concerned. Their number one priority is — and has been for decades — perpetuating their own comfortable “non-profit” existence.

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