How the CARE Network is responding to typhoon-related needs over one year after Soudelor

(Press Release) — After the announcement of a $500,000 commitment from the CNMI government, acceptance of a $200,000 donation from Best Sunshine International, execution of a week of anniversary events including SOU’ Fest, and the arrival of off-island volunteers (World Renew and Mennonite Disaster Services) secured by CARE to repair and rebuild homes still damaged from the typhoon, CARE is excited to celebrate how a year’s worth of effort has transformed into positive impacts for our island.

With this increased publicity also spawned many questions on how CARE supports families still impacted by disaster.

Foremost, CARE CNMI is a cross-sector network of community partners that came together in the wake of Typhoon Soudelor to build community resiliency and address the long-term unmet needs of individuals and families impacted by disaster.

After months of debris removal immediately after the storm, CARE’s efforts shifted thanks to a partnership with the Red Cross Disaster Case Management team or DCM, a FEMA-funded program where case workers outreach directly to families, assess their unmet needs, and work with CARE to acquire the resources necessary to fulfill these unmet needs caused by Typhoon Soudelor. The Red Cross DCM team and CARE work hand in hand: DCM case workers identify the needs of clients, and then CARE finds the resources to fulfill their unmet needs.

During the first nine months of the Red Cross DCM program, up to 20 case workers were outreaching to families to identify who was still in need after Typhoon Soudelor. First, FEMA sent the contact information of 8,000 households who had applied for FEMA assistance to the DCM team to follow-up on their cases. Then the DCM team made 3,000-5,000 calls a week outreaching to families. Other DCM clients who had not applied for FEMA started to hear about the program through word of mouth, and calls continued to come through the hotline. After months of outreach, over 4,000 households opened a case with the Red Cross DCM team.

A thorough case management screening process ensures clients who receive resources have true unmet needs and that the organization responsibly expends its limited resources. Once a household makes contact with the DCM team, they are assigned a case manager. The client meets face-to-face with their case manager to identify what was lost due to Typhoon Soudelor. If a loss is reported, the manager opens a case for the household and conducts a home visit to verify the need.

After the need is verified, the case manager first reaches out to FEMA and attempts an appeal so the household can receive more FEMA assistance. If FEMA states they have funded all damages for the household or if the family is FEMA in-eligible, the case manager reaches out to other local social service organizations, such as Empty Vessel or Karidat, to see if their typhoon-related need can be met.

Once a case manager refers the client to other agencies and confirms the household has exhausted all community and personal resources, the case manager assesses if there is still an unmet need. If the need has been addressed, the client’s case closes. If there is still an unmet need, the case manager refers the client to CARE, the organization dedicated to acquiring resources for these clients.

To receive assistance, the Red Cross disaster case manager presents the client’s case to the CARE Unmet Needs Table or UNT. The UNT is a governing board of community members who care deeply about both helping families and responsibly using CARE’s limited resources to service the community. Case managers present unidentified information to the UNT, meaning the decision-makers never know the name, immigration status, or heritage of a client when approving his or her request. Data presented includes information on living conditions, the household’s level of vulnerability, if a member of the household is under age 3 or over age 65, or if a member of the household has a physical or mental disability. All these factors help determine a family’s urgency of need and prioritization of assistance.

Cases are presented to the UNT whenever resources are available. To date, CARE has awarded $224,000 in building materials through the Unmet Needs Table to approximately 100 households.

After funding approval by the UNT, the case manager goes with the client to purchase materials using a voucher. CARE purchases all materials directly; cash funds are not awarded to clients. The case manager then stays up-to-date with the client’s progress. The case closes when the case manager visits the home a final time and verifies there are no longer unmet needs.

During the first year of operation, CARE only had the capacity to provide building materials to families who had repair and rebuild needs. Now that CARE has secured long-term volunteers from Mennonite Disaster Services and World Renew through a FEMA-awarded grant, CARE can provide labor assistance for households unable to secure labor.

As of May 2015, clients registered under the Red Cross DCM program had an estimated $11 million of unmet needs due to Typhoon Soudelor. CARE and its network partners are continuing to strive towards addressing all unmet needs related to disaster, one family at a time.

CARE is building a more resilient community by facilitating coordination between network partners, business and government leaders, and community volunteers; identifying unmet needs; and delivering long-term support to those most impacted by disaster. For more information, go to www.carecnmi.org and “Like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carecnmi/.