Monday, June 24, 2013

$1.4 Million dollar grant to Presbyterians for Volunteer Housing?!?!

Please read this press release found on Disaster News first to get background so that we start on the same page.

Now, please forgive the incredulity as I know what it takes to find housing for 50+ volunteers in disaster areas during immediate response, it's not easy, and even when it does work, there are always problems. But when learning about the grant from the Red Cross to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) for $1.4 million dollars to "setup and coordinate volunteer housing" my jaw dropped.

Before I get into it, if anyone has any additional information on the details of this grant and would like to share them...please do, because it's in the details that I hope an explanation can be found. In going to the PDA site, you need to search to find any mention of it and in the world of disaster response this is a big what gives, where's the pomp and circumstance?

In the immediate aftermath of a disaster the need for housing is great, for displaced families, for first responders from outside the immediate area, for Federal officials, and also for Volunteers groups. Depending on the size/scope/type of disaster, the availability or lack thereof of housing can create a panic. This could be seen in the New York metro area following Sandy where housing was scarce and the need was great, and the influx of people overwhelmed what little was available. I spent several weeks knocking on doors before finding suitable space on Staten Island and on Long Beach on Long Island. All that to say, I understand what goes into setting up volunteer housing.

The reason why my jaw dropped is because setting up volunteer housing for 50+ people had a price tag closer to $1-2,000 mostly spent on infrastructure improvements: showers, shelving, secure storage, etc...and PDA now has $1.4 million?

To better understand how PDA does Volunteer housing, I found this document that outlines their Volunteer Village model. In the document you will see that the individuals responsible for running these villages are volunteers, so there is no cost for personnel to run the sites. In addition, there is a $20/person/night charge for staying on-site, presumably to cover utilities and upkeep. In addition to that, these villages don't take it's not a holistic volunteer housing solution because it doesn't accommodate Individual Volunteers who need a place to sleep.

So what exactly is PDA going to do with $1.4 Million dollars? Even if they setup 100 volunteer housing sites in the mid-atlantic region, as far as I understand it, they are a cost neutral proposition. Even if PDA took between 5-10% and used it for admin/salaries...there's still well over $1 Million to spend on this and I just don't see how.

I would love to see what the plan is, how many sites will be setup, when, and for how long? How many Volunteers are to be housed under the terms of the grant? Where is this money going exactly? How do Long Term Recovery Groups feel about this in the Mid-Atlantic region? Is PDA a pro-bono subcontractor now?

A lot of questions come to mind and I'm short on answers. I realize I'm owed nothing, but a greater degree of transparency would be helpful especially as articles are beginning to pop up asking where, why, or why not Sandy Recovery funds have been spent...and this massive grant, a first of its kind if I'm not mistaken, is flying under the radar.

No comments :

Post a Comment