Maria, a single mother, visited NYLAG’s Mobile Legal Help Center when it was stationed in a Brooklyn neighborhood decimated by Hurricane Sandy. Maria was overwhelmed and near tears when she came onboard; her home had no power or heat, she was cold, and her cell phone battery was almost dead. She needed to speak with someone at FEMA but only had few minutes left on her cell phone plan, with no funds to purchase more. A NYLAG attorney used her own cell phone to make the call together. While the two waited on hold for 40 minutes, Maria was able to rest, warm up and charge her phone. When the call was finally connected Maria had difficulty understanding the FEMA agent’s jargon, so the attorney translated the agent’s answers into words she could understand.
After they had made significant progress in expediting the claim with FEMA, Maria told the attorney that she had sent her teenage daughter to stay with her mother (the girl’s Grandmother) for safety reasons during the storm. Maria and her mother had a strained relationship and the grandmother recently informed Maria of her intentions to keep her daughter for the remainder of the school year. Maria was understandably upset. The attorney and Maria decided to start by calling the 16-year-old child and telling her to come home. Her daughter agreed, and the attorney discussed the steps Maria could take if the grandmother hindered this return.
Lastly, the attorney asked if Maria’s younger son was back in school. Maria replied that his school had been destroyed by the storm. She had no idea – understandably, since she had no power, no mail and no resources – that children were being sent to different schools until their regular schools were up and running again. The attorney researched online and arranged for both children’s transportation to their temporary schools. Maria was grateful and relieved that she finally had some understandable information, a plan for her family, and a foundation on which to begin the process of recovering from the storm.
Find out more about NYLAG’s Storm Response Unit.