Sporting blue vests and armed with stacks of flyers, Project Hope counselors can be seen everywhere in Long Beach these days.
“Ultimately, we’re just here to listen to you,” said Kristen Snipp, Project Hope Coordinator. “There is a benefit to sharing your story and feeling supported.”
Project Hope is a free, confidential crisis counseling service offered to victims of Hurricane Sandy. Project Hope helps people cope with the aftermath of a storm through counseling services. Some counselors are medical professionals, but they are not meant to diagnose. Rather, they listen to people’s stories, give them the tools they need to manage the difficulties in their lives and then point them towards valuable resources that may help them in their situation.
“We’re not diagnosing them,” said Snipp. “We’re really sitting there and being present with them and allowing them to share what happened to them.”
The New York State Office of Mental Health created Project Hope last October. Immediately after the storm, many people were focused on their physical health — finding safe shelter and cleaning out the wreckage in their homes was the first priority.
In the confusion and the chaos, many didn’t realize the emotional toll a disaster like this can have. The state mental health office felt that people in disaster areas needed emotional assistance as well. They were able to receive funding for the program from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Project Hope offers services like individual and group crisis counseling, informational support and public education. And they are flexible in the way they can deliver these services. They can come to your home for an individual counseling session, or to your business for a group seminar. They listen to people’s experiences, and then teach the stress management and coping skills that they needs. They also refer people to other programs they feel will help them with their recovery, for everything from housing to mental health. The biggest aspect Project Hope stresses is that their help is always confidential.