Identifying Hurricane Sandy’s Unmet Needs

Hurricane Sandy was the second costliest disaster in the United States in 40 years. Within weeks, $35 million was raised to support immediate relief. But nearing in on four months after the disaster many people have returned to life as normal but far too many have not. And that’s where the CDP Hurricane  Sandy Disaster Fund comes in. Thanks to generous contributions from over 10 donors, including a major gift from The Patterson Foundation, CDP will be able to invest nearly $500,000 in long-term recovery and rebuilding projects.

I’m boarding a plane to New York City to meet with other funders and NGOs responding to Hurricane Sandy.  My aim is twofold: 1) to uncover unmet needs; and 2) find the “good ideas” that could work if only there were funding.

In thinking about unmet needs, we look at past disasters.  While each disaster has its own unique profile, the way communities are affected from Indonesia to South Louisiana is oddly not that different. Some needs that often go unfunded and under attended after a crisis include:

  1. Mental health and psychosocial support needs.  These needs typically start to rise six to nine months after the disaster.
  2. Long-term housing solutions for both single- and multi-family homes.  We know from past disasters that this will continue to be an issue for months to come (if not years).
  3. Small businesses recovery.  Those hit by the storm often do not have the resources to reopen.
  4. Overall economic recovery.  Given damage to infrastructure, and local industry, the local economy may be affected for years.
  5. Vulnerable populations such as the elderly and children.  Those populations that were the most vulnerable in advance of a disaster are likely the hardest hit by the disaster and take the longest to recover.

As we think about Sandy, our team is focused on what the unmet needs are for the hardest hit areas of New York and New Jersey.  As I mentioned above, we are diligently reaching out to responders and funders alike and brining to bear our own intuition and expertise.

Finding the “good ideas” is the Center’s way of recognizing that our Fund is modest in size, and could not fund rebuilding scores of damaged homes.  What our Fund CAN do is support community- based preparedness and response efforts and fund community-led convening platforms around affordable housing.  We can support technology development and deployment, we can support media efforts designed to spotlight the recovery effort.  And we can do this all with the fast-held belief that communities that are devastated by disasters deserve the right to rebuild their lives and reknit the fabric of their existence.

As seasoned grantmakers, we are convinced about the need to serve vulnerable populations, to leverage our funding (either by inspiring others to partner, give more, or give differently) to steward our dollars effectively, and to award innovative grants.

But we wont be able to do that without your helpyour insights and your feedback.  So, wont you take a moment to email me directly at  I’m eager to hear from you and get your thoughts on how the Center can address unmet needs and find the  “good ideas.”

* A quick caveat – we’ll only be making grants to 501c3 organizations, and not to individuals or affected businesses directly.

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