It seems like Mother Earth is reacting to centuries of mistreatment, doesn’t it?
First it was Hurricane Harvey, and now it’s Hurricane Irma. Two major hurricanes within only a couple weeks of each other, wreaking havoc. Estimates are saying that hurricanes Harvey and Irma caused destruction of $290 billion combined. That can seem like an unreal number, so here are some examples to give you an idea of the scope of the damage.
Before Irma hit Florida, Anguilla, Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, St. Martin / St. Maarten, the US Virgin Islands, and Turks and Caicos were the hardest hit, with up to 99% of structures damaged. Electricity is out in many areas, as is running water. Looting has started in some of the islands, making them more unsafe.
In Florida, residents in the Florida Keys were only allowed to travel back to their homes yesterday… with warnings. If you’re not there to help salvage and repair, officials are asking that you stay away. Power is not consistent and water is not drinkable.
In Texas, Hurricane Harvey damaged more than 500,000 vehicles. Gas prices are rising due to the refineries being affected. This storm has affected the economy of Texas, and thus the economy of the US. Texas has the 2nd largest economy in the US. 30,000 people had to leave their homes during the storm.
Everyone affected is now facing economic hardship, mental and physical health challenges. Many are without homes and don’t know where they will live. So, how can you help?
With hundreds of emergency shelters in operation, volunteers are needed to staff them. You can sign up online with the state-run Volunteer Florida and receive shelter training or call 1-800-FL-Help-1.
Use your skills
Florida needs 1,000 volunteer nurses to help at special-needs shelters
The travel site Airbnb has been utilizing their widespread network of housing options to find hosts and locations for evacuees and relief helpers of Hurricane Irma. Encompassing most of Florida, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, you can sign up to be a host yourself or can find free housing if you want to go down and volunteer in relief efforts.
Getting water to people who need it in the Caribbean Islands affected by Irma.
Team Rubicon is an organization of veterans who deploy to disaster areas and help, on the ground. They have many capabilities but those most important will be Medical Services, Debris Management and helping to rebuild. (Team Rubicon was instrumental in Hurricane Sandy, in salvage and repair. I am a HUGE fan. This is where my donations are going.)
You can find a local blood drive on the Red Cross website, by calling 800-733-2767, or by using the Red Cross blood donor app.
Adopt a pet
If you’re thinking about adopting a dog or a cat, for example, this could be a good time. Animal welfare organizations in Texas, Florida, and around the country are likely to take in pets that have lost their owners. For instance, St. Hubert’s Center, based in New Jersey, has listed 12 Northeast animal shelters that are expected to take up to 100 shelter dogs from Texas. Check with your local animal shelters.
*** To ensure that your money is going toward a reputable charity, you can check whether the charity has been rated or accredited by an organization like Charity Navigator, Charity Watch or the Better Business Bureau. These might not cover smaller, community-based charitable organizations. But you can read useful tips about choosing a charity from the Federal Trade Commission.
SAY NO TO DONATING MONEY TO THE RED CROSS. Instead donate to organizations that will be on the ground helping people get back on their feet. We believe that there are many other options who will use your money better to aid those affected by the Hurricanes.
I was personally made homeless by Hurricane Sandy. In the months after the hurricane, we saw a lot of amazing volunteers and organizations from around the world that helped the people on the Rockaway Peninsula. (Thank you!)
We did not see the Red Cross. Oh wait, except for on TV — you know that big concert with Bon Jovi that raised over $300Million for Hurricane Sandy victims. That money that was very slow to be distributed and some of which was moved to other areas of the country after the Red Cross determined that no more help was needed in the Rockaways.
Do a little more research. Here are sources that also suggest that the Red Cross is not the best at Disaster Aid.
Here are a couple of articles with lists with other great options.