By Andrew Wills, California Safe Corps, Disaster Client Services Response and Recovery
One of the most difficult aspects of suffering a major home fire is taking the first steps to rebuild. It is overwhelming to lose everything in an instant, become homeless, and provide for a family. My most rewarding role as a California Safe Corps member is to help facilitate a client’s recovery after a disaster.
I recently took on a case where a family of four had been displaced due to a fire that started in their kitchen. I had been on the Disaster Action Team (DAT) call and witnessed the devastation the fire had caused. All of the client’s belongings were either burned or saturated with smoke to a point beyond salvaging. Other than a few bags of clothes, the only possessions they had were the comfort kits that the Red Cross had provided. I was able to interview the client while on the DAT response, which made handling the casework personal. I felt responsible for the family’s recovery.
After the fire, the Red Cross provided some money for food and clothing as well as four nights hotel stay, but the client didn’t have any friends or family to stay with after their hotel voucher was used. On the initial call with the client, I was able to recommend resources including Cal Works and Volunteers of America. During a follow up call, I could tell the client was frustrated because she didn’t qualify for the programs I recommended, but I encouraged her to continue seeking additional assistance. Eventually, the client was able to receive extra help to meet her family’s immediate needs from a non-profit organization called Vet Hunters. This was a huge blessing that prevented the client from using what little resources she had left. She was then able to apply her saved funds toward a deposit on a new apartment.
It was rewarding to help a family be proactive about their recovery. Although I wasn’t able to provide additional assistance through the American Red Cross, I was able to encourage my client to continue searching for other organizations that may be able to offer additional help. My client was extremely grateful that I was able to provide resources and support during a difficult time. She was most thankful for having someone show compassion and motivate her through an extremely stressful situation. Being able to provide an invaluable service to my community is what makes working for the Red Cross such an amazing experience. I am also grateful to be working with passionate, service minded people who are always willing to put others before themselves.