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Posts tagged ‘shelters’

Painter’s Hurricane Preparedness Tips, Part 1: Be Advised, Be Aware

The people along the east-southeast coastline of Texas are still in shock. Unable to begun their recovery from Category 4 Hurricane Harvey’s direct hit less than two weeks ago. Unable to calculate their devastating losses.

 

Floridians, on the other hand, just went into their shock-mode on Monday, September 11. (Yes, exactly sixteen years after that September 11.)  Hurricane Irma had hit Florida.

 

One week earlier – Tuesday, September 5, everyone in all 73-76 counties had been put on high alert by Governor Rick Scott. The National Hurricane Center in Miami had rated Hurricane Irma a Category 4-5. It would arrive in Florida some time between September 8 and 10.

 

MOVING FORWARD…

 

It did not matter which coast the hurricane hit. The state is narrow enough, and Irma’s diameter and circumference were massive enough that, peripherally, it would paralyze a large part of the state.

 

Between September 8 and 10-11, Hurricane Irma hit every coast of Florida. And, it has paralyzed every county in Florida.

 

Until the hurricane actually hit The Keys, my sister in Southeast Broward County sat in Irma’s direct path. I was concerned, but not worried.

 

Before the hurricane reached Puerto Rico, Donna went into high gear. She activated a system that she developed in 1992, as Andrew approached. She is a veteran preparer for and survivor of Category 3, 4, and 5 hurricanes.

 

A lot of people were counting on her to jump right in. She’s responsible for a lot of stores and a lot of workers, and to some extent, the welfare of the workers’ families. She’s answerable to the leaders of an international corporation that had just lost a lot of stores in Southeast Texas.

 

When it comes to major hurricanes, I tend to listen to my sister more than anyone else. I knew that her advice would come in handy. Hurricane Irma was described as much bigger, much more dangerous than even Andrew had been.

 

A week ago, I had four big hurricanes under my belt. Until September 9, only the peripherals of hurricane number five – Irma – were supposed to skirt the Orlando area.

 

I was finishing this blog

 

REFLECTING ON AND RELATING TO TROPICAL STORMS

 

I was working at Seralago Hotel and Suites, Kissimmee, when two severe tropical storms caused cyclone-like whip-lashing winds, torrential rains and hundreds of land-hugging tornadoes.

 

Between August 19 and 21 of 2008, Tropical Storm Fay repeatedly plummeted the area. On June 23 and 24, 2012, Tropical Storm Debby pounced on the area with vengeance.

 

At the hotel, we took the threat of every potential Florida-bound hurricane and every tropical storm very seriously. Our two top priorities were (1) our guests and staff and (2) the structural areas being used for shelter.

 

The storms in both 2008 and 2012 left behind extensive wind and rain damage to the exteriors of buildings and around the grounds. It caused heavy water damage to many guest rooms; the main lobby, kitchen and food court, and public restrooms; and conference center. Also, it damaged both indoor and outdoor recreation areas including both swimming pools and the gazebo. It ravaged our beautiful gardens, nature sanctuary, and walkways. It uprooted flowering shrubs, bushes, trees, and vines indigenous to Florida Tropics – and the Caribbean.

 

Every person and pet on the property made it fine.

 

Everyone there helped it come out better than worse. Management, especially department directors and supervisors, pulled together. They led the staff of over 100 in disaster preparedness, survival and recovery that saved many lives, and the property. They followed a plan, somewhat similar to the one that my sister created.

 

Major hurricanes – major disasters – deserve our full attention from preparation-to-recovery. They warrant our participation. They require our joint commitment to see things through.

 

“This is going to be a very long haul,” said a long-time resident of Lake Jackson, right after Hurricane Harvey plummeted Southeast Texas. An old classmate of my mother, the man choked as he talked on a mobile phone. He and his wife were returning early from their summer home in New Mexico.

 

SEE THESE FOLLOW-UP POSTS:

 

Painter’s Hurricane Preparedness, Part 2: “THE DIRTY SIDE OF THE STORM”

 

Painter’s Hurricane Preparedness, Part 3: In the Paintshop

 

Painter’s Hurricane Preparedness, Part 4: Creating a Make-Shift Shelter

 

Painter’s Hurricane Preparedness, Part 5: Packing for Riding Out Storm

 

Painter’s Hurricane Preparedness, Part 6: Securing Inside of Your Home

 

 THE BOTTOM LINE: First protect lives, Second protect valuables. Third, if there’s any time left, protect whatever else really matters, most essential things first.

 

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Major disasters swoop in, then leave. People and pets are meant to stick around awhile.

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Stay alert, smart and safe. Thanks for visiting “Painting with Bob.”

Copyright 2017. Robert D. Hajtovik. All rights reserved.

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Painting with “SYMPHONY SAM”

STRADIVARIUS
My mother told me recently about “Symphony Sam.” That’s the name she gave the homeless man that played virtuoso-quality music with his violin, in Chicago’s Pedway. And, he handed out free copies of the official Vietnam Veterans of America newspaper.

 

She met him one morning, in the Pedway between Randolph Street and Michigan Avenue, and S. LaSalle Street. She took the underground walkway, when Chicago’s temperature dropped to the 30s (wind chill factor 20 degrees or lower), and freezing winds bit into one’s cheeks.

 

“Symphony Sam” was a Vietnam Veteran. He suffered from PTSD, the debilitating effects of Agent Orange, relentless pain from the shrapnel still in his back and legs, and major depression. He always wore “a frayed, dark blue suit” when he played in the Pedway. And, a “subtle smile of absolute acceptance.”

 

Prior to serving three tours of duty with the U. S. Marines, “Symphony Sam” taught music at Julliard. Also he played Second Violin, part-time, with the New York Philharmonic, and violin in the orchestra of an on-Broadway theatre.

 

WHAT DOES “Symphony Sam” HAVE TO DO WITH PAINTING?

 

After “Symphony Sam” was released from the military hospital in Japan, he returned to the United States. The only job he could get was painting sublet apartments for a New York City real estate company. He lived with a fellow Vietnam Veteran and his wife, in a small, three bedroom flat.

 

One Christmas, he ended up on a Greyhound Bus, as it pulled into the main terminal, in downtown Chicago. He told my mother that he never remembered buying a ticket, and getting on that bus.

 

He said that he checked into a cheap, but clean hotel on Randolph Street. He carried a few clothes in a small suitcase, and his Stradivarius violin. No painting tools.

 

The hotel’s manager helped “Symphony Sam” get little painting jobs at other small hotels, located in the Loop.

 

One night, he suffered a severe PTSD episode. He said that he’d been fortunate. All of his previous attacks, in New York and Chicago, had been mild ones. He ended up in Michael Reese Hospital on the South Side.

 

Since then, he’d been unable to work regularly. When he had enough money to get by, he stayed at that cheap hotel, managed by the friendly Sicilian. Usually, though, he “lived underneath the city…with a few friends…also Vietnam Vets.”

 

My mother saw “Symphony Sam” for the last time in 1989. The week before Christmas. “He wore a newer, used suit, and a pair of polished black boots,” she told me.

 

He told her that he had been living back at the hotel. He worked part-time doing repairs and painting for “a list of steady customers.” He called them “small hotel people.”

 

“Symphony Sam” seemed content,” Mom told me. But, her eyes told me a different story. A major concern of hers, over twenty-five years later.

 

Did “Symphony Sam” make it? For how long? In 1989, when she saw him last, he was over 55. PTSD and Agent Orange’s lung effects had become less manageable. Several common medical conditions had set in. “His newer suit hung on his frame, always very bony,” my mother recalled. “His eyes an eerie tornado green. . .”

 

“Florida has ‘Symphony Sams,’ too,” said my mother recently. On “FLASHPOINT,” two Central Florida homeless coalition officials were describing the modern housing facility to be built for the homeless in the area. A plea was made for major capital support from corporations.

 

What about the “foreclosure-bound” hotel that a church congregation and volunteers converted into studio efficiencies for the local homeless? (“Painting It: A Multi-Family ‘Home for the Homeless,” posted December 11-12, 2014.)

 

What about the abandoned mansion, turned into a transitional residence for the homeless? (Watch for: “Painting It: Existing Home for the Homeless,” to be posted December 23-24.)

 

What about “Symphony Sam?”

 

“I would offer these people a much quicker solution.” I told relatives during Thanksgiving.

 

“Constructing a new structure – a large transitional housing facility, for millions of dollars – could take a couple of years,” I explained. “The groups involved in the Central Florida project – facility – haven’t even selected the land yet.”

 

Here’s one proposal to help people like “Symphony Sam” have a safe, clean home – and a chance at a better life.

 

  1. Rescue a few smaller hotels and motels along U. S. Highway 192. The ones plagued by low occupancy rates, disrepair and damage, and the threat of foreclosure.
  2. Repair them. Reconfigure their rooms and public areas. Set up a central dining area for the homeless residents.
  3. Recruit homeless persons, who once worked as skilled construction workers. Put them to work. They can help in making certain repairs and reconfiguring the rooms and common (public) areas. Give them a chance to regain some of their dignity. Their basic skills, like riding a bike or typing, will come back to them.
  4. Offer these workers future housing there, when the property opens for occupancy.
  5. Give the homeless residents a good reason to take care of their respective room, and the overall property.
  6. Keep the housing as simple and practical as possible. Recycle whatever furniture, desks, fixtures, appliances, window treatments, kitchen ware, dishes, etc. that are in good condition. Repaint, re-stain and refinish all surfaces.

 

By the way, expensive wallcoverings, flooring, furniture, and state-of-the-art systems are unnecessary. Research and reports about homeless shelter accommodations show that “pricier” amenities tend to make persons just off the streets nervous, self-conscious, apprehensive, distrustful, and even ill.

 

Every community has a “Symphony Sam.” A person who still possesses the skills and abilities, the passion, and the interest to give back! To get off the street! To once again become a more productive part of the universe.

 

Every community has do-able options to meet the dire housing needs of the homeless. Every community has at least one existing multi-unit property, that can be converted in a time-cost-manpower efficient manner.

 

Our local hotel GMs and their staffs can do only so much. They can help only so much. Their resources are very limited. Their ability to use their properties – which they do not own – is very, very limited.

 

What needs to happen to provide safe and clean housing for the “Symphony Sams” in our respective communities? To get this job done sooner than two to three years after they become statistics?

 

Local entities such as the Central Florida Coalition on Homeless and Central Florida Foundation (http://www.cffound.org) are proactive, and motivated.

 

Special projects such as the “Reconstruction of Housing for the Homeless in America Project” focus on providing safe housing promptly.

 

Professional and trade projects like the AIA’s new redesign/rebuild internship project tap young talent. Among other things, they offer fresh, new approaches to “reconfiguring and retrofitting” solid existing structures into great multi-occupancy housing.

 

What is your community doing to get your homeless adults and children, into safe and clean housing?

 

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“Best wishes for a healthy, safe and peaceful holiday season – and Year 2015.”

 

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Thank you for visiting “Painting with Bob.”

 

 

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