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

Originally published at Notes From The Bunker. You can comment here or there.

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?