September 12, 2017
International Social Service Teams Up with DOS and HHS to Assist Hurricane-Affected Citizens
No one likes to experience travel delays and cancellations. For more than 2500 U.S. citizens living on islands decimated by Hurricanes Irma and Jose, "travel delays" include evacuating from their home due to a natural disaster. Over the past two weeks, it has been a great challenge for them to get out of the crisis and back to the U.S. One family was so desperate to get their children to safety, they placed them on a transport plane and stayed behind to salvage their family business from looters. The children were taken into child protection custody in Puerto Rico and a permanent situation is being explored in Utah.
For many, the first part of the evacuation was coordinated by the U.S. Department of State. They enlisted U.S. military planes and others to transport citizens out of affected islands and evacuate them to San Juan, Puerto Rico. International Social Service was then called in to find shelter and travel aid for American citizens on their journey back to the United States. International Social Service staff worked through the weekend and continue to work to help those returning home.
|U.S. citizens being evacuated from St. Maartan
Photo credit: U.S. Department of State
"This is not our first emergency evacuation," stated Stephney Allen, Program Director for the U.S. Repatriation Program at International Social Service. International Social Service has been called in to provide assistance to American Citizens evacuated from Lebanon in 2006 and Haiti after the earthquake in 2010. Each time International Social Service plays a different supporting role. For the Lebanon evacuation, we were first responders at local airports. In Haiti, we provided assistance remotely and processed loan repayments for thousands of individuals in need. During both evacuations, we provided short term repatriation assistance to those who were destitute and/or mentally ill. In non-emergencies, International Social Service collaborates with a social worker in the city of final destination, ensures the person is met at the airport, transported to a hospital if medical care or mental health care are needed, and provided temporary shelter. If the person is eligible for benefits, they receive care until they can get on their feet again, usually before 90 days. For those able to work, the program links them with job-seeking services. Children that return without a guardian are taken into foster care, where the foster care system develops a permanency plan. Elderly persons are evaluated and placement is sought in a long-term care facility, if needed.
International Social Service and The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)'s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) have provided repatriation assistance to more than 14,000 U.S. citizens returning home to the U.S. during emergency and non-emergency situations in the past 11 years. Check out the repatriation page of our website for more information.
If you are traveling overseas, we encourage you to register with the State Department before you leave the United States. In an emergency, the State Department will know how to contact you.
The International Social Service and HHS team assist citizens fleeing from Hurricane Irma.