With reports that Hurricane Ida was headed towards our area, teams all over Montgomery County including many of our Behavioral Health team members, kicked into high gear for storm preparation. Primarily focused on homeless people in the community, the teams worked to help our vulnerable neighbors prepare as best they could. Like the pandemic, Hurricane Ida was about to deal a heavy blow, but the vulnerable people in our communities would feel it the most.
The evening of September 1st, Montgomery County was ravaged by flooding and ripped apart by intense, driving winds from the remnants of Hurricane Ida. The real surprise in this storm was the devastation to housed individuals. Overnight the homeless population doubled as peoples’ homes were uninhabitable, flooded out or torn to shreds. The storm decimated lower lying areas which tend to be low-income housing across the region. The phone calls started coming in, and they kept coming. Street Outreach and Mobile Crisis were actively reaching out to emergency personnel with whom we have relationships to check on people known to be at risk.
Our Behavioral Health programs have never shied away from difficult moments. Within a day or two of the storm’s damage, conversations were organized between our teams and our community partners who were delivering lifesaving support and resources to people in the community to better coordinate all our efforts. Together, we began to prioritize the most at-risk people and ensure they were in a hotel.
Our Mobile Crisis team was asked by law enforcement and emergency responders to support multiple death notifications for families of individuals that died in the floods. There are no words to describe this experience. Yet they faced this with compassion and dignity. Street Outreach spent days and weeks resupplying our homeless neighbors with gear that was lost in the storm. They worked tirelessly to ensure that people had what they needed.
Mobile Crisis became the primary contact for individuals known to be struggling, and we provided some in-person support to allow displaced persons the opportunity to decompress from all they had been through. Mobile Crisis also provided trauma debriefing for township employees and supported many families and schools.
There is no quick fix to the devastation Hurricane Ida caused. You can still drive around and see signs of damage throughout the area. The past two years have challenged all of us in the helping field beyond what we thought we could handle. Our staff have continued to serve with grace and determination despite the endless challenges.
Our partnerships with other service providers and organizations have made a larger impact possible. Ongoing donations from the community have given us resources to meet needs. And our vulnerable neighbors have allowed us to be part of their rebuilding process. This is an incredible honor. Standing in the gap is part of our DNA and our dedicated staff stayed the course no matter what 2021 brought.