Brent Wilson, 33, the owner of Shine’s in the West End, has heard countless stories from frustrated residents who come to his 100-year-old bar for a bit of respite. Nearly a year after Hurricane Sandy, the storm is still a topic of conversation.
“The mentality of the West End right now is very fragile,” Wilson said.
Many people are still displaced and fighting with their insurance companies, or dealing with piles of paperwork to obtain much-needed federal funding to help them rebuild, he said. Some have been forced to use their retirement or their children’s college funds, in the hope that an insurance settlement, or a fraction of the billions of dollars that Congress set aside for Sandy relief, will find its way to them. There are families who are still living with friends or neighbors, while others, Wilson said, have simply given up, sold their properties and left.
“Dozens of our customers packed up and left — there are people who threw their hands up. A lot of the renters who had no support whatsoever are gone,” said Wilson, who, along with his wife, Megan Casey, put aside their own concerns about Shine’s’ survival in the weeks after the storm and turned it into a soup and supply kitchen.
“Whether it’s from insurance, or the banks not releasing the money to pay contractors, there are still people who have not received any money, and people are still in hotels,” he said. “There’s construction going on everywhere, but at the same time, a lot of places haven’t been touched because they haven’t received the money. We had a neighbor who declared themselves homeless so their kid could go to school in upstate New York where they were staying.”