Protection from the Storm: Disaster Assistance Report from Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Petersburg

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Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Tampa Bay area on September 10, 2017 as a category 1 storm. While this area was spared a direct hit, residents here have experienced loss and financial struggles because of the fierce winds and torrential rains that battered homes and businesses. Residents are also dealing with the difficulties resulting from the subsequent flooding, power outages, business closures and agricultural impacts. Here is an overview of how Catholic Charities has protected lives entrusted to its care and provided disaster relief before, during and after Hurricane Irma.

  • To prepare for Hurricane Irma, Catholic Charities staff mobilized its Emergency Management Team and prepared to protect families living on their properties that include affordable housing, senior housing, transitional housing and homeless shelters. At Pinellas Hope, much work needed to be done on the grounds that provide a safe space for 250 homeless adults. Staff and volunteers removed all tents, secured the property and transported residents to a mandatory evacuation shelter, a nearby high school. While the homeless clients were riding out the storm at the school, Catholic Charities employees volunteered to take shifts with the residents to assist them during the hurricane.
  • After the Hurricane, the Catholic Charities Emergency Management Team immediately assessed impacts to personnel, buildings, and clients. They were relieved to find out no one was hurt and damage was minimal. Clients were returned to Pinellas Hope and Catholic Charities offices and sites re-opened when power was reinstated. Staff moved quickly to establish collection sites for donations of necessities (e.g., water, canned goods, and toiletries) and began distributing these items.
  • Thanks to the generous hearts of supporters, Catholic Charities raised nearly $20,000 on its website and received over $20,000 in donations mailed to their office. Catholic Charities USA provided over $500,000 in donations collected by generous hearts around the country.
  • Catholic Charities designated four locations as disaster assistance centers and reassigned case managers to disaster relief operations. They have provided the following relief to those who could not be helped by FEMA:
  • Nearly 400 people have been or are being helped with rent, utilities, housing, and other financial-related assistance with $30,000 provided to-date.
  • Nearly $50,000 was provided to fixed income senior residents of CCDOSP-managed HUD 202 apartments to replace the food they lost because of subsequent power outages, some lasting as long as 6 days.
  • Over 2,600 individuals have been provided water, food, clothing, and other items through our Citrus County Outreach Center in partnership with other agencies – public and private – and through many of our other CCDOSP program locations.
  • Over 2,300 meals have been served to men, women, and children.
  • Currently, staff members are canvassing locations where flooding has damaged homes to identify where to provide ‘gap’ assistance (e.g., roof repairs, tree removal, etc.) not covered by private insurance or state or federal disaster relief funds.
  • Staff members have coordinated hundreds of volunteer-hours to those who have assisted with providing these services.
  • Catholic Charities in the Diocese of St. Petersburg has raised several thousand dollars online for our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters devastated by Hurricane Maria and have helped communicate the delivery of donated goods through a local group organized by private citizens in coordination with a Diocesan priest. They are working in concert with FEMA, local and state agencies, and other private service providers in anticipation of a large influx of South Floridian and Puerto Rican evacuees.

If you or someone you know is facing an immediate emergency, such as a financial, home or family crisis, Catholic Charities has four sites throughout Tampa Bay to assist the victims of Hurricanes Maria and Irma. Please call one of our four locations below. Catholic Charities will be providing financial assistance and referrals for schooling, medical care, food, and English classes to those who qualify. Here are the four Catholic locations:

Catholic Charities (General Information & Assistance, Office Hours 9 am – 4 pm)

Pinellas County:  1213 16th Street N., St. Petersburg, FL 33705 (Tel: 727-893-1313)
Hillsborough County:  2021 E. Busch Blvd. Tampa, FL 33612 (Tel: 813-631-4390)
Pasco County:  37733 Meridian Ave., Dade City, FL 33525 (Tel: 352-521-1218)
Citrus and Hernando Counties:  8370 Forest Oaks Blvd., Spring Hill, FL 34606 (Tel: 352-686-9897)