Thursday, October 26, 2017

Hodgepodge 362/365 - Casework

I have been in Napa County the past four days, ostensibly to do Red Cross casework for the wildfires that raced through here two weeks ago: meeting with "clients" and taking down information in exchange for various reference materials and a small sum of money per person in the case, to help with their recovery.

The first day involved a brief training at Region 2 HQ in Fairfield, and then I drove the short distance to Napa, where I checked into the staff shelter at a church. When I saw the room that was lined with narrow green cots, about fifteen of them, I began to question my sanity. It's one thing to do casework at home—which I did a couple of years ago for the Soberanes Fire in my own county: but there, I got to go home at night. It's completely another to have to go to a communal shelter at the end of a day of work.

But I banished my doubts and headed into town to look around (i.e., do a little geocaching), and took myself out to dinner at the Black Bear Diner—a place I would not ordinarily patronize, but it was handy. The next day, we'd get down to work.

As it turned out, there were only four of us in the shelter that first night, all of us from Monterey/Santa Cruz Counties. I was somewhat relieved, though as it also turned out, I'd parked myself in the brightest spot in the room: right under a vigorously glowing green EXIT sign. I had grabbed one of the two sleeping pads that were piled in a corner with clean bedding, so the cot wasn't exactly uncomfortable, but I have trouble sleeping with other people because (shhhh) I'm always afraid I'll snore. So yeah, it wasn't the greatest night's sleep.

The next day I learned that we'd be joined by twelve more ERV (emergency response vehicle) drivers. Okay. Now I was not just questioning my sanity, but desperately seeking a way out.

Fortunately, my colleague Laurence has a friend (her sister-in-law's sister) who has a house in Napa, which she lets out, and it happened to be empty this week. Whew! Three of us very happily moved in there! Not only is it spacious, so each of us gets our own room, but it is also within walking distance of the service center. Did I say, whew!?

Our "service center"
That problem solved, it turned out there's very little work for us. Political problems between Napa County and the Red Cross, partly, had kept us from getting set up in a timely fashion, whereas the general LAC (local assistance center, with information on everything from FEMA grants, to replacing drivers licenses, passports, and birth certificates, to finding a reputable contractor, and much more) has already been in full swing for a week-plus. So we mostly waited on Tuesday, getting a total of three cases, thanks to a radio spot signaling our presence in the community. And yesterday: again, just three cases—though my new friend Joanne and I headed up to the LAC to table there, which at least made for a change of environment, though it wasn't very busy there either. I expect the big rush has come and gone.

Today, finally, we had some work—mainly going into launched casework to double-check that all i's are dotted and t's crossed, but at least it's something. I did get one new case today, a lovely older woman who came in with her grown daughter (who also got her own case). Everything lost, but they weren't daunted. I continue to be blown away by people's resilience.

We'll be here two more days. I imagine it'll be more of the same now—but as I said, at least we have something to do. There's nothing I like less than sitting around twiddling my thumbs. But I suppose we're managing to help people, even if it's at a few degrees of separation.

This experience is helping me revise my ambitions for working with the Red Cross—which I do want to continue to do: it's an important organization, doing important work. But that staff shelter? I can't imagine being happy staying in a place like that. I got lucky this time. So instead, I think I'll be sticking close to home as a Red Cross volunteer, responding to DAT (disaster action team) calls, doing local and virtual casework and follow-up. There's plenty to do, for anybody.

Romantically, I'd love to go to some hard-hit area—like, right now, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands are mobilizing for evacuations. I wouldn't even mind a difficult work situation.  But sleep? I've got to get a good night's sleep . . .

1 comment:

  1. Sleep is everything. Thank you for volunteering to help.