For Hurricane Sandy victims like Cosmo Cianci, Habitat for Humanity Atlantic County may serve as the last resort before utter despair sinks in.

Representatives from Habitat for Humanity Atlantic County made themselves available Satuday at the Trinity United Methodist Church to try to help people like Cianci of Atlantic City.

Cianci, a retiree, has been without heat or hot water since Oct. 29. The wind took off huge chunks of his roof, so water comes into his home when it rains.

“It is just so cold,” said Cianci, who was facing another night in his beach-side Pacific Avenue home with temperatures expected to drop into the teens. “When I go to bed, I get under a minimum of six blankets. I have two pairs of wool socks. I have sweatpants, two sweatshirts, a wool cap and a scarf around my face with gloves.”

Cianci, a retiree, wears all these clothes to sleep while two hot-oil, electric radiators are operating in the bedroom of his three-story house.

“Even though the two heaters are working to take most of the chill out of the air, the wind tunnel effect (because of the roles in his roof) is so bad that it is difficult to cope with,” said Cianci, who has lived in the home since 1980.

Hurricane Sandy hit Cianci hard. He suffered flood damage and water in his basement. Surge water destroyed his boiler and his hot-water heater, and it saturated his submerged oil tank. This month, Cianci shut off his water main, so his pipes wouldn’t freeze and break. They did so anyway with the last cold snap, so now, he is without any running water.

Cianci visits a friend every three or four days to take a shower, or he stops by the Milton and Betty Katz Jewish Community Center in Margate.

“The flood insurance program does not pay for submerged oil tanks. I have been in touch with Assemblyman (John) Amodeo and Assemblyman (Chris) Brown’s office trying to find out about grant monies that are supposedly available for the citizens of New Jersey. Apparently, that program is either no longer in existence or just in suspended animation,” said Cianci, who added his boiler also needs to be removed and replaced.

This is the worst situation Cianci has dealt with in his 63 years of living, but he walked out of the church feeling better than when he arrived after talking to the Habitat for Humanity people.

“Everything has gone absolutely beautiful. They have been very, very helpful here, and they are giving me lots of leads for other people,” Cianci said.

Hurricane Sandy was such a bad storm that Habitat for Humanity Atlantic County is expanding its focus. Volunteers for the organization, known for building new homes for people, spent their time Saturday helping people do the paperwork to assess critical home repair needs.

“The point of the fair is to bring families out that are starting to lose hope. They may have already been through numerous application processes. We want to bring them out to see if Habitat for Humanity’s Atlantic County Chapter can help with critical home repairs,” said Executive Director Debbie A. Van Sant . “There are families living in homes that are not cleaned out, living in conditions with mold.”

AmeriCorps and other partner agencies are available to help qualified families clean up and remove the remaining muck inside their homes, Van Sant said.

“What we are seeing today are unmeet needs. People who may or may not have reached out to other organizations. They have been waiting for insurance money. They have been waiting for FEMA,”said Van Sant, who added the fairs help people determine their needs and how their needs can be helped. “There are 500 families still in hotels in Atlantic County. There are not enough rental properties to meet the need.”

Michael Advena, organizer of the Hooked on Ventnor community-based volunteer group, also attended the fair. Hooked on Ventnor and Habitat for Humanity Atlantic County are members of the Atlantic County Long-Term Recovery Group.

“I think people need to understand how the program (Habitat for Humanity) works, and in order to do that, they need to get in the door. They need to sit down and speak with us,” Advena said. “There are so many resources that we have created through the Long-Term Recovery Group that people just are not aware of, to put the pieces of their lives back together. We are out everyday talking to the people, trying to make them understand that.”

Contact Vincent Jackson:

609-272-7202