In the early afternoon of October 29, 2012, Sheena Sharp and her two daughters—Shanyce, 5, and Jamiah, 3—were forced to evacuate their home in Seaside Heights, NJ. Hurricane Sandy was quickly bearing down on the East Coast.
“I packed clothes, food, a few things in an overnight bag and just drove. I thought we would be away overnight at the most,” said Sharp.
The Sharp family lived just three blocks from the ocean. They had no way of knowing that this would be the last time they’d stand in their home or have all their belongings.
The hurricane damaged the house to such an extent that it was condemned; so FEMA placed the family in a hotel as part of the Transitional Shelter Assistance program.
“The hotel accommodations were appreciated, but I knew my deadline for leaving the hotel was fast approaching,” Sharp said.
It was then that Sharp says the Red Cross stepped in with a phone call. An appointment was set up with a Red Cross caseworker to conduct an assessment of the Sharp Family’s status, with the goal of helping them make a plan for long-term recovery.
“The Red Cross offered me encouragement and direction. I didn’t know where to turn or what resources were out there; I hadn’t been in this situation before,” said Sharp.
Sharp began to search online for housing, and the Red Cross continued to assist with phone calls and visits, which reinforced her efforts. They also helped explain what documents and papers she needed to acquire for housing.
Sharp was able to find a house that fit the needs of her family, and the Red Cross helped her with the security deposit. Two weeks ago the Sharp family moved into their new home in Willingboro, 50 miles away from their old Seaside Heights home. There is no living room furniture or even kitchen table and chairs, but the home is clean and warm, and her young daughters are active, friendly and happy.
When Sharp was asked if she liked her new home, she replied with a big smile: “I haven’t left here since I moved in, I love it here.” The Red Cross is now helping the Sharp family with some of the furniture necessary for their new home.
The Sharps’ experience is an example of how Red Cross caseworkers are meeting one-on-one with people who need help as part of the family’s long-term recovery. Disaster recovery can be a lengthy process; so the Red Cross will be helping to meet the needs of people and communities for months to come.