Helping Those Who Help Homeowners After a Disaster | Best Stories

Nearly 10 years ago, Hurricane Sandy devastated thousands of homes and killed more than 200. For most people, the disaster is a distant memory. However, as Hanna Eisenstein realized during her summer internship with SBP (initially named the St. Bernard Project), the 2012 super storm continues to affect people and their homes.

Eisenstein, a 2018 Scarsdale High School graduate and currently a senior at Duke University, began her internship with SBP, a nonprofit dedicated to disaster relief, in June.

Founded in 2006 to help communities recover from Hurricane Katrina in the parish of St. Bernard, Louisiana, SBP is rebuilding homes for low to moderate income homeowners, with a special focus on families with young people. children, the elderly, the disabled, veterans and the underinsured. or the uninsured. It takes an average of 61 days for the organization to rebuild a house at 40% of a contractor’s cost at market rate. They do this by relying on AmeriCorps membership and volunteer work. (AmeriCorps is a national service program that engages individuals to help meet the critical needs of communities in areas affected by disasters.)

Hanna Eisenstein

Throughout his internship, Eisenstein interviewed homeowners who suffered long-term damage from natural disasters and wrote their stories, which were later posted on the SBP website. What attracted her to the organization was her family’s previous involvement in it.

“My family did a build with them a few years ago and since then I’ve just been researching… how great a model he is,” Eisenstein said. “Each person [who] is involved in this organization is so dedicated to the craft and so passionate about helping people and this interpersonal bond. It’s so inspiring and such a refreshing way to run an organization.

SBP’s model is based on the idea of ​​rebuilding resilient communities after a disaster – resilient because they use sustainable materials to rebuild a house so that if a disaster happened again, there would be no more damage. Eisenstein finds that this model sets SBP apart from other disaster relief organizations.

“Instead of just coming after a disaster and rebuilding, which of course is and they’ve rebuilt over 2,000 homes – they have this model of taking preventative action before a disaster even happens,” a- she declared. “They’re really dedicated to preparing people, whether it’s giving them checklists to understand what kind of insurance they’re entitled to or knowing how to apply for FEMA. [Federal Emergency Management Agency] grant if something were to happen, or how to avoid contractor fraud after a disaster. They’re just a great resource that people can rely on to get ready before something even happens. “


The Bennick Residence under repair after storm damage.


A Bennick resident shows where the floodwaters reached his house.

What also sets SBP apart is its continued involvement in disaster-affected communities long after it has occurred. For example, Eisenstein cites their work regarding Sandy’s relief.

“I was so surprised to learn this, but [although] Hurricane Sandy happened in 2012, there are still people suffering from it who still need help, ”she said. “There are houses that are damaged from it, especially near Rockaway Beach… SBP was actually the first on the ground after Hurricane Sandy and now we’re the last there.”

Along with a few others, Eisenstein traveled to Brooklyn to interview a homeowner whose home was flooded during Hurricane Sandy and who was still facing long-term damage. She relayed the owner’s story of the day Sandy knocked it down.

“He was just sitting in his living room … And he hears his daughter knocking on his front door.” He opens the door and he hears all his neighbors screaming and… water rushes at him. He floods his house and completely floods the entire first floor, ”Eisenstein said. “It’s up to his chest and he basically has to swim up the stairs to get up. He’s up there for six hours with his family. The house has never been the same since… He’s been living with mold everywhere since then and every time it rains the light fixtures fill with rain.

Eisenstein said interviews with clients highlighted a flaw in the way the public and many organizations deal with disaster relief.

“I think the main problem with disaster relief in general is that people help right away. When you hear about a disaster happening, the recovery is quick and people are there to volunteer and people donate and stuff, but people really forget maybe a year later, maybe less, ”she said. “That’s definitely what happened with Sandy. And now, almost a decade later, people are still going through this and everyone has kind of stopped talking about it … but SBP is still here and trying to get federal grants or private donors to help. rebuild.

Another person interviewed by Eisenstein was a single mother from Texas who suffered the devastating effects of winter storm Yuri.

“The winter storm came and froze her pipes completely and she had no water at all for three days,” Eisenstein said. The woman’s neighbor, a retired plumber, came over and “literally took a hair dryer and an extension cord and just put hot air on all the pipes.” He eventually ran one of the pipes in the kitchen, but she didn’t have hot water for 10 weeks.

Eisenstein described how SBP helped the woman by sending three plumbers to her house. They decided not to fix the pipes, but instead to give it a whole new plumbing system.

“As I said before about this preventative measure and this durable material, this is a main pillar of SBP: rebuilding a resilient house so that if it happened again, it would not be left in the same situation.” , Eisenstein said. “They gave her brand new pipes made from much better materials so that if there was another winter storm… she wouldn’t have to suffer like she did.”

One of Eisenstein’s favorite experiences this summer at SBP was interviewing Liz McCartney and Zack Rosenberg, the organization’s co-founders, and Reese May, SBP’s head of strategy and innovation.

“Each person at SBP has had [a] memorable experience with a client… that experience you come back to and that’s what motivates you to keep going and that’s why you got involved, ”she said. “[Liz, Zack and Reese] told me their stories and they all bonded so well together. They all choked on telling them and they are all so dedicated. This interpersonal connection is what keeps them going.

In addition to interviewing clients and SBP and writing their stories, Eisenstein helped write the script for an episode of the SBP podcast. She has also been brainstorming recruiting ideas for the service project of SBP’s partner AmeriCorps, where young people between the ages of 18 and 25 can spend 10 months rebuilding homes for an education allowance for their school fees.

Eisenstein also worked on a project to help SBP advertise their new app, Equip, by creating a one-minute teaser. The free app provides users with interactive lessons and checklists based on the insurance they are entitled to. It also offers push notifications for any upcoming disaster.

“It’s a great resource that people can use to feel prepared for anything that [might] to arrive. I think this is another example of how SBP is dedicated to really preparing people and they made it so accessible with this app, ”she said. “It’s really easy to use and it’s… interesting to watch and see how you would prepare if something were to happen. “

Although her internship is over, Eisenstein said she still feels dedicated to SBP and hopes to inspire others to get involved.

“Once you hear about it, it’s pretty hard not to want to be involved,” she said. “I think they’re doing everything right and I keep wanting [help them] in every way possible.

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