• T.J. Putman

Wildfire Relief and Family Promise

It’s hard to believe that less than two weeks ago I was playing basketball outside with my two nephews. It seems like the year 2020 is teaching us that any situation can transform in an instant.

The Wildfires brought devastation to so many of us, and I’m thankful that the only thing my family lost is some park time. We don’t have official numbers yet, but many of our neighbors in Marion County lost so much more—they lost their homes.

A disaster like the wildfires takes our housing crisis response to a new level. Right now, hotels in our area are at capacity as fire refugees sort out their next steps. Salem First Presbyterian Church, The State Fairgrounds, and United Way have all stepped in to provide emergency relief to people who have been driven out of—or who have permanently lost—their homes. At Family Promise, we’re taking a deep breath in the smoke-filled air to assess how we should respond. To make sense of this, we need to focus our response, like many organizations did before us, on the ‘three R’s’ of disaster management: relief, recovery, rebuild.

Relief - The first and most urgent step in disaster response is the immediate provision of community needs. We’re here right now, and our community is meeting the relief need by providing shelter and food.

If you want to help, check with United Way and their needs list. If you have relationships with other organizations, connect with them to see what they can offer in terms of support. Put calls out to others who might be able to help with needed donations. The fires are devastating, but it’s encouraging to see how our community responds when people need it most.

Recovery - For many families impacted by the fires, homeowner’s insurance and FEMA will be able to jump in and help with extended motel costs, cleanup, and funding for rebuilding. For many renters and low-income families, that isn’t the case.

For the past couple years, Family Promise has been able to provide one-time emergency rental assistance for families who needed a little help. We’re going to continue this program, and if a family impacted by the fire needs deposit or rent assistance, we should be able to help.

Rebuild - Restoring communities like Detroit, Gates, Mill City, Stayton and Silverton to their previous strength is the longest step on a long post-disaster road. Since the Red Cross typically provides short-term assistance, our role at Family Promise in rebuilding is critical. We’re seeking funding and asking people like you to help. We need resources to restore housing for our lower income neighbors. For some this will start with emergency shelter, and it will take time to rebuild rental housing. For others, it will take a few months of rental assistance to stabilize their situation.

COVID-19 will complicate our community’s recovery and rebuilding efforts, but we can do it. Over 10,000 of our neighbors have been positively impacted by the volunteers and congregations of Family Promise. We are uniquely equipped to face the housing challenges that lie ahead. Won’t you join us and make sure that every child who lost their home can once more sleep with a roof over their head?

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