When natural disasters strike, impacted communities are often flooded with help for victims to recover, but not everyone is able to receive that support. Two community funds are stepping in to make a difference.
During the 2017 Tubbs fire, Sonoma County residents were able to access funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), although many residents were able to take advantage of this opportunity, there was a large portion of the community that was unable to access these funds due to their immigration status.
To address this issue, a coalition of immigrant service providers consisting of the Graton Day Labor Center, North Bay Organizing Project and North Bay Jobs with Justice came together to create the UndocuFund for Fire Relief of Sonoma County providing direct monetary assistance to undocumented fire victims to help them recover and rebuild.
According to the UndocuFund website, “an estimated 38,500 undocumented immigrants live in Sonoma County.” Additionally, “when they do qualify for services, many undocumented immigrants are unlikely to pursue those benefits due to fear of immigration enforcement, lack of familiarity with official institutions and limited English proficiency.”
In the wake of the Kincade Fires, the UndocuFund is currently seeking donations to assist fire victims. “The focus now is to raise funds, because at the moment, we do not have those funds,” said Omar Medina, UndocuFund Coordinator. “During the Tubbs fire, there was a huge outpouring of philanthropic support because of the significance of loss that we experienced. This time around, the structural damage is not as bad, which is good, but that affects how much support is coming in. We know people are going to struggle.”
Whereas during the 2017 fires, a main focus was supporting victims who had lost homes, this time providers are taking into account different needs. ”We are looking at people who have experienced wage loss, fire damage or fire impact,” said Medina. “Another is potentially those who were affected during electricity outages.”
Although it is unknown how many families have been impacted at the moment, the unprecedented cost of evacuations and loss of work income can be an obstacle for undocumented residents who do not qualify for federal assistance.
Additionally, Corazón Healdsburg has launched the “Unity and Community Fund” to provide financial assistance to fire victims affected near the fire, like Geyserville, Healdsburg and Windsor. “It’s a coalition of Latino providers who jumped into action and stepped up to support the community,” said Ariel Kelley, Chief Executive Officer of Corazón Healdsburg.
The fund became active on Thursday, October 24th and has so far completed 5,000 intake forms and provided financial support to an estimated 1,000 individuals. All proceeds from the funds go directly to victims and come in the form of cash and gift cards. As of October 29th, the fund had raised $27,691.
A centralized intake process has been created and the intake consists of questions regarding contact information and needs. No documentation is being asked. “We are on the ground at the shelters getting these applications done,” said Kelley.
According to her, multiple pop-up resource centers have been set up throughout the Bay Area including in Napa, Santa Rosa, Petaluma, San Rafael, Foster City, San Ramon, Pleasanton, Oakland and San Francisco.
“We are calling it the ‘Unity and Community’ fund because that is the motto of our efforts, unifying community and making sure that they feel supported,” said Kelley.
Donations can be made to the UndocuFund here. For those interested in applying for funds, contact Omar Medina by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or text: 707-318-6631 to be added to the list.
Donations can be made to “Unity and Community Fund” here, or by mailing a check made payable to “Corazon Healdsburg” to P.O Box 1004, Healdsburg CA 95448. For those interested in applying for funds, applications can be found on their website, or by contacting them on Facebook.
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