Sandy 2 Years Later: New & Old Challenges
Two years after Superstorm Sandy hit land, the repair of Monmouth County continues with an expansion of both priorities and assistance needs.
"The degree of recovery here changes street by street, town by town," said Erik Nedeldoff, executive director of the Monmouth County Long Term Recovery Group. "Needs from those impacted by Sandy are diverse and growing. We are seeing a significant increase of emotional and financial assistance requests."
An estimated 3,500 properties in Monmouth County are still in need of repair. To-date, 30 homes in the Shark River Hills area remain uninhabitable. Nedeldoff believes the area from Ocean Township south to Belmar is positioned to recover from Superstorm Sandy more quickly than other areas however is still years away from completion.
FEMA and Coastal Habitat estimate two to three more years of recovery efforts for coastal Southern Monmouth County.
"The damage we had here is different than in other areas," said Maureen Mulligan, executive director of Coastal Habitat. "Many think everything is back to normal because they do not see homes knocked off their foundations. From the outside the houses look relatively fine but the damage inside qualifies many, many properties in our area as tear-downs."
Organizations like Coastal Habitat are challenged with securing funding from the public and private sectors to continue repair efforts as individuals move on to other philanthropic opportunities.
As the second anniversary of Sandy approaches next week ("officially" Oct. 29), the Long Term Recovery Group continues to meet for the first time homeowners in need of critical help. Cases include requests for financial assistance for those trying to manage the burden of both rent and mortgages, emotional support for traumatized individuals and their family members, as well as construction.
"There are homeowners who, when the water subsided, did everything they could to dry out their homes and then moved back in and now they are coming to us with huge mold infiltration issues (in their homes)," said Nedeldoff. "Other people who are back in their homes and by all accounts seem as if their lives are back to normal are coming to us for post-traumatic stress support – for their children, their parents and themselves."
Sandy-specific support groups are being created by local mental health organizations. Earlier this year, New Jersey’s Hope and Healing launched the Sandy Wave Riders support group for families and caregivers affected by the storm.
Nedeldoff, who previously worked on a Katrina recovery project, says a difference between Katrina and Sandy-impacted families is that many, many more Katrina families left their homes permanently and moved out of the area. The vast majority of Monmouth County residents want to return home.
"Disasters like Sandy affect people deeply," said Nedeldoff. "I have seen incredible acts of kindness here. With neighbors supporting neighbors, volunteers working overtime and donors giving what they can, Monmouth County will continue to make Sandy part of its history, not its future."
Coastal Habitat has rebuilt 42 homes to-date and has 10 more homes, primarily in the Shark River Hills-area, Belmar and Manasquan scheduled for restoration in 2015.
Those in need of any type of assistance related to Superstorm Sandy are encouraged to reach out to the specialists at the Monmouth County Long Term Recovery Group at MCLTRG.org.