St. Vincent de Paul reaches out Print this post

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic


More than a month after Hurricane Irma there is still much to be done to help people get back to their pre-hurricane lives.

A few weeks after the storm struck, the Disaster Services of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul-USA arrived and coordinated with the Diocese of Venice and Catholic Charities to launch a diocesan-wide parish-based relief effort called Parish Recovery Assistance Centers (P-RACs). The P-RACs were in Sebring, Bonita Springs, Marco Island, Naples and Fort Myers.

Volunteers with the Disaster Services of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul-USA work a Parish Recovery Assistance Centers to help people impacted by Hurricane Irma. This location was at the Catholic Charities Diego Center at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs.

“P-RACs are an all-inclusive community-based approach to helping families immediately after a disaster hits” stated Elizabeth Disco-Shearer, CEO of Disaster Services, SVDP-USA. The different organizations worked together to deliver critical information and referral services and immediate relief to the survivors of Hurricane Irma.

The program focuses the SVDP’s efforts on the long-term case management needs of affected people after the first-responder agencies departed. This differentiates the Society from the American Red Cross, FEMA, the Salvation Army and others, who take on immediate needs such as food, shelter and clothing. 

This is the home of Lucia Lopez in Bonita Springs which received extensive damage from Hurricane Irma and the subsequent flooding of the nearby Imperial River.

The P-RACs were located at San Marco Parish on Marco Island; St. Agnes and St. Elizabeth Seton Parishes in Naples; St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs; St. Cecilia Parish in Fort Myers; the pavilion in Everglades City; as well as at St. Catherine Parish Youth Center in Sebring. They opened Oct. 2 and closed Oct. 14, helping hundreds of families.

One client that went to the Bonita Springs location, which was housed in the Diego Center of Catholic Charities, was Ynes Diaz, who lost the entire contents of her home due to wind and flood damage. Her family is safe, but insurance will only cover a fraction of what was lost.

“It has been so hard to know what to do or where to go,” Diaz explained. “I learned a lot today (from the SVDP P-RAC team members) and how to get help. I have hope and that is more than I had before.”

The P-RAC teams provided information on FEMA, Small Business Administration and other federal, state and local disaster programs. In addition, they provided clients with hygiene kits, cleanup buckets, and other forms of help as needed, and registered households with Crisis Cleanup for muck outs and debris removal.

The idea is that the SVDP helps people in situational poverty as a result of natural disasters to get their lives back in order. Local SVDP volunteers dedicated countless hours to help families get through this crisis.

While all of the P-RACs are closed as of Oct. 14, Hurricane Irma survivors can still call the SVDP hotline 888-507-2722 to get information and receive counseling and long-term case management.

Diane Clark of SVDP said that there are long-term programs, such as helping people replace the contents of their homes that are in the works, but take additional time to implement. In addition, the SVDP within the Diocese of Venice is coordinating additional long-term help on a case-by-case basis.

“We are not going anywhere,” Clark said. “We will just transition into what we always do; that is helping people get back on their feet.”

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