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Project Hope Offers Grief Counseling for Flood Victims

MAMARONECK, N.Y. -- Tropical Storm Irene won't soon be forgotten by Mamaroneck families, with some still looking to return home, while others will never be able to.

For those families, and anyone in Westchester affected by Irene, there is Project Hope, a free, anonymous crisis counseling program that has helped about 850 people in Westchester cope with the stress and emotional distress of dealing with a hurricane or flooding. Most of them have been from Mamaroneck, Rye, Elmsford, parts of White Plains and Bronxville.

"Even though the storm is now six or seven months old, reach out for help," said Dan Mancini, a team leader for Project Hope . "It's never too late to try to get connected to resources."

Myriam Valle has hit every dead end in her search for resources following the Aug. 28 storm, which left her Howard Avenue home uninhabitable nearly nine months ago. Today, her house has yet to be touched because she does not qualify for NYS or FEMA grants that could address her particular problem.

"The foundation of my house is disconnecting from the actual house, so it is a potentially dangerous situation to just patch up walls and live there," said Valle, who is waiting to see if FEMA will buy her land.

Julienne and her son Michael Conaway , 5, were forced to live out of multiple shelters for over a month after the storm, while their Howard Avenue apartment was being repaired. Julienne said Michael would cry every night at the Coachman in White Plains.

"It's just like a nightmare in there," said Julienne, who found another apartment in Mamaroneck for her and her son in mid-October.

Around the same time, FEMA teamed up with the Mental Health Association of Westchester and other governmental agencies to staff a roving counseling team.

Project Hope’s three crisis counselors will continue to meet anonymously with Westchester residents at a location of their choice through mid-November. Within the next month, Project Hope plans to offer educational and support groups to educate Westchester residents about how to prepare for future natural disasters.

Project Hope advises anyone who wishes to learn more about the services they provide to call (914) 345- 5900 ext. 7543.

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