At this time a year ago, as we all prepared for the holidays and school vacations, there were approximately 38,000 people in New York City--including 16,000 children--who did not have a stable place to live. Over the course of the year, those numbers grew to more than 47,000. Now, as we end 2012, many of those families still lack stable housing, and their ranks have swelled again with the thousands of people left homeless by Hurricane Sandy.
From the beginning, it was clear that Sandy was not like other storms. This hurricane affected an area the size of Western Europe. In addition to the tragic loss of life, the storm caused upwards of $80 billion in damages. It wasn't the wind that did all the damage, but rather the storm surges that destroyed the first floors and basements of thousands and thousands of homes. This clearly was a full-blown catastrophe.
While Robin Hood is not a traditional disaster-relief organization, we were prepared to help. With nearly 25 years of experience as New York's largest poverty-fighting organization, and our expertise in providing assistance to victims of 9/11, we knew that many of the front-line, hyper-local organizations that assist New Yorkers every day would benefit from our help and funding.
As a result of our support, food pantries drove their mobile soup kitchens into hard-hit communities they didn't normally serve; volunteers went door-to-door delivering food, blankets and other vital support to people stranded in dark and freezing public housing projects; benefits counselors and attorneys fanned out to advocate for and assist people with applying for their rightful benefits.
We also re-activated the Robin Hood Relief Fund, enabling us to further provide funding and other support to those organizations best positioned to assist Sandy victims. Less than two months ago, the Relief Fund started with $1 million and grew to $16 million, all of which has now been allocated in grants ranging in size from $10,000 to $1 million to more than 140 organizations. The groups we funded have extended or provided new services, developing thoughtful and strategic ways to help thousands of people in need.
The Relief Fund has been more than replenished through "12-12-12: The Concert for Sandy Relief." The one-night-only event, featuring some of the biggest names in music, movies, and television, grabbed the attention of people across the world who generously responded with support. Thirteen thousand people attended the concert and millions of viewers tuned in and contributed to the Sandy relief effort. Robin Hood will distribute the $50 million of initial proceeds for "12-12-12" to organizations helping to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy. Fundraising efforts have included ticket sales, sponsorships, telephone and web donations and merchandise with additional money still coming in. Over the next several months, we will take every penny that was raised and grant funds to the most effective organizations helping low-income victims and vulnerable populations in New York City, Long Island, New Jersey and Connecticut.
Through the Robin Hood Relief Fund, we've been able to touch lives across the tri-state region. There's the 91-year old woman who emailed to thank us for making it possible for organizations like City Meals on Wheels to deliver food to her door. There are 17 low-income families in Monmouth County, New Jersey, left homeless from the storm, who will have new roofs over their heads in the New Year. These stories show us that while the road is long, there is hope
I know a woman whose home in the Rockaways was destroyed by fires resulting from the hurricane. She suffers from multiple sclerosis and is confined to a motorized wheelchair. With the tide rising and flames licking the sides of her home, she was forced to hurl herself into the floodwaters. Moments later, a neighbor rescued her on his surfboard and paddled her to safety. Now, living in an apartment that is not handicap accessible, and using a wheelchair that does not meet her needs, she will tell you about the experience: "It was exciting! I had never surfed before!"
These stories are a reminder of how brave, resilient, and supportive communities across the tri-state area have been in the face of this immense tragedy. We're honored to be a part of their story through the incredible local organizations we work alongside each day. As Bruce Springsteen sang during "Land of Hope and Dreams," at Wednesday's concert: "Well, you don't know where you're goin' now, But you know you won't be back/Well darlin' if you're weary, Lay your head upon my chest/We'll take what we can carry, And we'll leave the rest."
Although the fight is far from over, we're hopeful this holiday season because of the strength we witness each day.