Nearly a year after Hurricane Sandy, a group of residents who found temporary shelter in Connecticut are still struggling to move on.
“I can’t go back to Staten Island,” said Maryann Daino.
Diano currently lives on a lot next to Faith Church in New Milford. The church partnered with the Tunnel to Towers Foundation to provide mobile homes to New York residents left homeless by Hurricane Sandy.
The 15 homes were made available, rent free for a year. The 15 families that moved in also received assistance with groceries, clothing, and finding jobs.
John Hodge was inspired to lead the project after community service trips to the Sandy shelters on Staten Island. “Some of those shelters to me were like a modern-day Charles Dickens story, it was pretty scary for a number of reasons,” Hodge said.
“I had to deal with drug addicts, sex offenders, prostitution, thieves,” recalls Guillermo Hernandez. He and his wife took turns staying up all night to protect their children at a shelter. Today, the Hernandez family has adjusted to their new lives in Connecticut, his son and daughter are thriving in school.
But their current home is not a permanent one.
“The agreement was that by December 31st these homes need to be vacated and in fact were moving towards that right now,” Hodge noted.
Some families have plans to move out and move on. Dennis Klaus does not, “it’s heartbreaking for a number of reasons not just that were going to be in the street. We have relationships here that become much more than family.”
John Hodge is working with local social service organizations to help residents shift the next phase of their post-Sandy lives.
And while the community will soon disperse, Hodge doesn’t want to lose sight of its success.
Hodge recently reflected, “to know that we were able to put together a program which at the end of the day has changed or saved multiple lives, multiple families, you know there’s no thanks for that here on Earth.”