“We had extensive damage to the inside of the shelter, and as a result, we evacuated all of our clients — we had a full house — on late Friday night (July 5),” said Amy Tiberghien, executive director of Safe Haven. “As it stands right now, we can’t offer emergency residential services. We are keeping our crisis line and community outreach services going.”
The shelter’s summer camp was cancelled for last week, as the unforeseen weather event threw a wrench in the works for the organization.
“Our summer camp, which was cancelled for this week, will resume on Monday (July 15). Because we had to cancel the first week, we’re going to offer those campers an option for August. It will be Aug. 6-9.”
The shelter itself is currently in the midst of repair and restoration work in order to get the emergency residential service back in operation.
“We have ceilings that were dropped, and our floors are out, and we’re just kind of going through the restoration process right now. It’s been interesting — things we’ve never experienced before, so it was definetely a shock to all of us.
Tiberghien praised the work of the local fire department on the night of July 5 in helping to ensure further damages were not sustained to the building, and that all residents and staff remained safe.
“I got a call on Friday night, that there was water coming into the shelter through our electrical fixtures in the ceilings. It was pretty wild. Luckily we had two staff on at the time, and they were very prepared and knowledgeable, and turned the electricity and water off. We also had some sparking on the east side of our building, so the fire department came in to take a look. They were amazing.”
Tiberghien noted the shelter — which had been at full residential capacity at the time of the storm — had to be evacuated.
“It was just a matter of re-locating our clients, because everything was wet and the power was off. We knew that we couldn’t continue to provide residential services, so all of our clients were re-located with the assistance of our staff and emergency social assistance.”
Residents were relocated to other shelters and hotels, according to Tiberghien.
“Typically, we would try to refer them to another shelter. In this case, we were looking at hotels and other shelters. But the cab companies weren’t running out of town, so we didn’t have the option to go to other shelters at that point, because the storm was so bad we were told they weren’t offering services to go outside of town, because they were so busy in town. So they worked with us to relocate all of our clients. Everyone was relocated in a timely manner, and everyone was safe.”
Restoration of the shelter could take upwards of two months to complete, with Tiberghien emphasizing that restoring emergency residential services is a top priority.
“We don’t know the cost, but we know that we’re looking at least a month of not being able to provide emergency residential services part of our service. I’m optimistic that it will be less than two months, but I don’t know. The companies that have come to start our restoration have worked really quickly, and I’ve identified to them the areas of the shelter where we provide residential services are our number one priority, so we can get clients back in the shelter as soon as possible.”
The worst damages sustained by the building were on the main floor, not in the basement as might be expected.
“There were other areas that were hit. The administrative side of the building, the ceilings have been dropped there and are drying currently,” said Tiberghien. “It’s crazy — I’m not in my office, I feel like I’m being displaced all of the time, I’m constantly changing offices. All three of our floors were affected by the water, but our main floor was predominantly affected — which is odd, when you think about a flood in a three storey house, you would think the basement. But it just happened to have hit right where our kitchen is, and our living room, and some of the client rooms have been affected as well. We can’t provide services when we don’t have a functioning kitchen.”
Tiberghien reported the damages were especially discouraging considering domestic violence rates can spike in the aftermath of natural disasters.
“It’s definitely disappointing, because domestic violence is going to continue, and sometimes after events like that, domestic violence rates can spike for up to six weeks after. Because of that, it’s really important for us to resume our residential services. But right now, we’re just doing the best that we can with what we have.”
Tiberghien stressed that the other services provided by Safe Haven are still in operation and remain unaffected.
“It’s important to note that our crisis line is still up and running, and we’re doing our best to provide referrals to women and children who are fleeing domestic violence.”