Episcopal Relief & Development responds to Southern California wildfires

Episcopal Relief & Development
Posted Dec 11, 2017

Episcopal Relief & Development is partnering with the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles to provide emergency support to help the most vulnerable impacted by the wildfires spreading across Southern California. This assistance includes gift cards and spiritual care for homeless and undocumented people in Ventura, Ojai and Santa Paula.

“One of the challenges in a situation like this is figure out a response when new needs become apparent,” noted the Very Rev. Canon Michael Bamberger of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, a member of Episcopal Relief & Development’s Partners in Response team and the Diocesan Disaster Coordinator for Los Angeles. “We used an asset based approach and identified that there are active Laundry Love ministries in Ojai and Ventura. It was easy to see how the existing ministry could be amplified to meet the needs of a community to clean their clothes of the smoke residue. In the days ahead, when we become aware of more needs, we will do our best to address them.”

California has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the country due, in part, to the lack of affordable housing and shelters with long waiting lists, forcing an increase in the number of people living in encampments and on the streets.

In partnership with St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Ojai, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Santa Paula and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Ventura, the Diocese of Los Angeles is providing gift cards to help people who are homeless and undocumented to replace belongings lost in the fires. All three churches have strong interfaith relationships in their communities. Laundry Love, a national program that assists people struggling financially to have the dignity of clean clothes, is working with St. Andrew’s and St. Paul’s in Ojai to provide laundry services.

Canon Bamberger and diocesan leadership are in regular communication with clergy and congregational leaders through AlertMedia, an emergency notification platform, to assess and organize responses.

Driven by high, unpredictable winds and mountainous terrain, six fires continue to burn and have destroyed approximately 800 buildings and charred 230,000 acres. More than 5,700 firefighters are battling these swiftly moving fires for the second week. The Southern California wildfires erupted less than two months after thousands of acres and hundreds of buildings and homes were destroyed in wildfires in the northern part of the state.

“Our church partners have deeply engaged ministries,” said Katie Mears, Director of Episcopal Relief & Development’s US Disaster Team. “As the fires continue, we will leverage the expertise of our congregations and diocesan disaster coordinators.”

Donations to the US Disaster Fund will help those affected by the devastating wildfires in California.