“I’m self-employed and I’ve spent all my time in the last month dealing with this,” Cytrynbaum said in an interview. “It’s not just about replacing what we lost, it’s about having the means to support ourselves financially while we deal with all this.”
Michael Capponi, GEM’s founder and executive director, who worked with disaster relief during Hurricane Dorian and wildfires in California, said that there’s generally an initial emergency response, but often aid falls short and fails to deliver long-term solutions.
“There’s a gap period,” he said of the time after emergency relief, “That’s usually when things start to go wrong,” he said, stressing that the organization seeks to provide the victims with sustainable relief from the disaster.
Susana Rodriguez, a Champlain Towers resident who was spending the night at her mother’s house when the building collapsed, said that she has to leave the Red Cross-funded hotel she’s been staying in by Friday.
“We need relief money now,” she said, frustrated by bureaucratic delays from other relief efforts. “I need a roof over my head.”
GEM has collected $370,000 in donations for victims so far. Their first phase provided initial relief that included Visa and Walmart gift cards for victims to buy basic goods like clothes and toiletries in the immediate aftermath, as well as computer and reimbursement for families’ travel to Miami. The second phase put families in temporary apartments.
Liora Rahimi, a Realtor associate with Douglas Elliman, is helping victims find their new homes. She estimates around 95% of survivors are planning to rent, but that people are looking far and wide for new places.
“A lot of people want to get away from Surfside, others want contact with the area they called home — it’s a real mix,” she said, adding that it’s a difficult time to be looking for a place, with rentals in short supply and increasingly rising rents.
Cytrynbaum said that he’d like to stay in the Surfside/Bal Harbour/Miami Beach area, where he’s lived for 20 years. And before living in the area, his family had a vacation apartment there.
“It’s always been home,” he said.
Donations can be made to GEM’s Champlain Tower Residents Fund at www.globalempowermentmission.org/mission/surfside-tower-collapse.
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