How to Help Flood Victims
Water is life. It’s the briny broth of our origins, the pounding circulatory system of the world. We stake our civilizations on the coasts and mighty rivers. Our deepest dread is the threat of having too little – or too much.
– Barbara Kingsolver, “Fresh Water,” National Geographic, April 2009
The big mama of storms hit most of the eastern United States this weekend, where it broke levees, flooded thousands of homes and displaced the people who live in them.
It is easy to forget sometimes that the same storm that swept one family’s home away and made them refugees could have hit my home just as hard. The fact that it didn’t should leave me ready to help, as I would want to be helped, were it me. Were it my roof and basement and clothing and computer.
So here are some ways to get involved in your community when a heavy storm causes flooding:
1) Clean out homes. Call churches near the flooding and see what they are doing and if you can help. Churches sometimes have the best perspective of what the community needs because of their close connections with the neighborhood. Often they need help cleaning out homes and can use the extra volunteers.
2) House displaced people. Friends or churches sometimes know of people staying in hotels who could use some home-cooked meals and a free bed until their house is restored or other arrangements are made.
2) Volunteer or donate at a shelter. You can start by calling your city’s Red Cross team and if their shelter is full, find out from them what other shelters (often churches) might need help.
3) Foster a pet. Call the animal shelters near a flood situation to find out if they have more animals than they can take care of (hint: they probably do!). As a foster caregiver to a pet, you agree to take care of one of the rescued animals of a flood until the owner claims it. If the animal goes unclaimed, you will have the option of adopting it, or giving it back to the shelter, who after some time will have more space.
4) Join or start clothing and food drives. Call the radio stations in your area to see if there are any drives for clothing, canned goods, etc. If not, you could easily start one or help raise money for the Red Cross or churches, depending on which group you get involved with and what supplies they need most.
Right after a storm hits and floods a home, you may want to help by donating clothes or furniture. But the people who are displaced have nowhere to store such items just yet. The Red Cross or other rescue organizations will help you determine what and how to give. Usually household donations are helpful after about a month, when some of the homes are cleaned out.
And while driving to the site of the flooding and volunteering might help, it can also cause confusion if you are unregistered with a group beforehand. Find a group first to make it easy and safe for you and for the people running cleanup.
Do you know of other ways to help after a flood, or do you have tips for making it go smoothly? Share them here!
Have you ever been the victim of a natural disaster like flooding? What kind of care and support did you want in the first days after the storm?