A month after Hurricane Sandy, many Atlantic City residents are still without heat and in some case homes or jobs.
On Friday the Red Cross, T-Mobile and the Community Food Bank, Southern Branch, provided boxes of food, backpacks with blankets and other essentials, and resources to try to help them find a permanent place to live.
The Red Cross has set up a large heated tent at Bader Field, where they will continue to assist residents from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. On Thursday 34 people came for help, and by 11 a.m. Friday 60 more had arrived as word spread. But workers said finding affordable housing is a challenge and some families are simply staying in their water-damaged apartments and hoping repairs will eventually be made.
Red Cross worker Travis Schell said housing, food, and winter clothing are the primary needs.
Rupan Mallik said his family is still living in their rented apartment, even though it has no heat. He bought a space heater, but is concerned for the health of his elderly parents and 2-year-old daughter. He said his landlord told him he would take care of the heater when he got the insurance money.
“I can’t afford to move,” he said, adding that they lost most of their belongings in the storm, and right now he is only working about 20 hours a week at his casino food service job. “I have a job, but not enough hours. It’s hard to buy anything.”
The Red Cross continues to provide residents with a bright red backpack filled with two blankets, a first-aid kit and personal cleaning wipes.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has extended more than 2,800 housing vouchers for New Jersey residents or families living in hotels so that they do not have to move out until Dec. 13. More Atlantic City area rentals have been added to the online FEMA Housing Portal, but many have only one bedroom, and most rents start at $1,000 per month.
In an interview Friday on NJ Today, New Jersey Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development Harold Wirths said there were approximately 135,000 unemployment claims in November, almost three-and-a-half times the normal number, with 82,000 listed as Sandy-related.
At the Patsy Wallace Center in Atlantic City residents began lining up at 7:30 a.m. for a food distribution scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Some have been living with family or friends and trying to save their money to rent a new apartment.
“There were people already here waiting when we arrived to unload,” said Angela Porter-Williams, an Atlantic City native and senior manager in field operations for T-Mobile, which provided $10,000 to fund 500 boxes containing about 14,000 pound. of food, another $2,000 in cleaning supplies, and 100 new coats and 220 pairs of gloves for city children, which were given to school personnel to distribute.
By noon the cleaning supplies were gone, along with more than 350 of the large boxes of food, each of which contained 22 items that would be easy to cook and eat, including peanut butter, rice, tuna and canned soups and stews. While most came with carts, some residents were surprised at the large size of the boxes as they balanced them on shoulders and strollers.
“We were told that some people lost their refrigerators and stoves so we made sure we packed stuff they could use,” Porter-Williams said. Volunteers from T-Mobile helped pack the boxes at the Community Food Bank and distribute them at the Wallace Center.
Martin Pisciotti, regional vice president and general manager with T-Mobile said the company also donated $100,000 to the Red Cross, but also wanted to do something to help residents in an area they serve.
“We knew Atlantic City residents were hard hit,” he said. “It’s been a month, but they still need things.”
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