Note: La Toya White is working in the Far Rockaway Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) helping Hurricane Sandy survivors find housing and providing information on HUD programs.
On Thanksgiving evening, I was introduced to a young man with a mental health and cognitive disability. He had been living with his grandmother before the storm hit. He told me his grandmother applied for and received FEMA assistance for his family. He said he had slept outside on a park bench the previous night because his grandmother told him she could no longer take care of him and his younger siblings at her elderly age. They had lost everything due to the storm, and she had asked him to leave.
The Far Rockaway Queens Teen Library workers asked me to help him. I called the representative of the New York City Administration for Children’s Services after duty hours to request assistance. As a result of his guidance, I called Covenant House, but they would not accept him because he did not have any identification, which was lost in the storm. Identification is needed because Covenant House does not take teens over 18 years of age. I was advised by Covenant House to call a men’s shelter, and I did. The men’s shelter would not take him due to a lack of identification. He needed to prove he was 18 years of age or older because they do not take males under the age of 18.
I called back the representative from the New York City Administration for Children’s Services to alert him of the obstacle hindering placement for the young man. He referred me to another point of contact – all to no avail. Finally, I decided to ask a police officer working near the Disaster Recovery Center for help. Eventually, the officer took him to St. John’s Hospital where he was evaluated and admitted. The New York City Administration for Children’s Services was called by the hospital, and he was then placed in a teen facility.
Two days later, the Queens Teen Library staff member told me he was doing well and now had a stable place to stay. All I can say is thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve.
La Toya White is a management and program analyst in HUD’s Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity in Washington, D.C.