The human side of Post-Sandy

Posted on 10/30/2013 at 10:07 am

Dedicated to Freddie Hughes

mambo with suitcase

Bailey-Holt House resident Mambo returns home after Sandy.

One year ago, Bailey-Holt House on Christopher Street was hit with a 10 ft. water surge that took out the basement and 1st floor, the elevator, security systems, heat and hot water.  Bailey House staff and residents worked through the night to secure rooms, salvage files and ensure that the 44 residents in the house were safe. Like other West Village locations, we were literally in the dark about the future.

While we have written a lot about the physical site devastation – $1.9M in damages – the human side is equally devastating. Sandy’s “human impact” didn’t stop on October 28th. On November 1st, we were forced to evacuate all residents living in the building because it was clear that Village would stay dark. It was a mammoth effort but in 8 hours we found 44 housing placements in 3 boroughs that all welcomed us.

Despite the fact that each new placement was secure and welcoming, none replaced the feeling of home. As one resident put it “When you have a safe place to live after being homeless, you never want to leave. You assume that you will never return.” For all of us it underscored the Bailey House tagline “The future starts with a place to live.” Supported by a number of foundations and individual donors, we made a promise to get our clients back home.

For the next 3 months, Bailey-Holt House staff worked daily to ensure residents were stabilized, connected to care and still connected to each other. To get the building online, we worked with Speaker Quinn’s office, The Army Corps of Engineers, The City’s Rapid Repair program, scores of public agency staff, contractors and consultants. Finally on February 10th, we reopened after Con Edison connected us back to the grid.

However Freddie, a longtime Bailey-Holt resident whose health deteriorated after the evacuation, died the night before we reopened the building and was never able to return to his home.  It is still heartbreaking to remember his resiliency through so many health challenges and to know that he wanted to die at home. His untimely death will, for most of us, always be connected to Sandy.

For more information on Bailey House and how we made it through the year after Sandy, please watch our 30th Anniversary video:

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