Direct Relief has committed an initial $100,000 to assist undocumented residents in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties impacted by the Thomas Fire and mudslides through the 805 UndocuFund.
The Thomas Fire and subsequent mudslides have placed a heavy toll on the lives and livelihoods of immigrant households. Farmworker housing was destroyed and damaged in the Thomas Fire and farm laborers and others employed in landscaping, hospitality, childcare and housekeeping industries have lost weeks of work due to hazardous smoke and road closures.
“Direct Relief extends its deepest sympathy to those in our community who have suffered losses to the Thomas Fire and tragic mudslides,” said Direct Relief President and CEO Thomas Tighe. “Direct Relief is joining with CAUSE and pledging its support for the 805 UndocuFund with an understanding that disasters often weigh heaviest on the most vulnerable among us, as well as a commitment to doing whatever it takes to help our community avoid an even deeper setback.”
The UndocuFund will assist local residents who are excluded from federally-funded assistance programs because of immigration status. The fund is modeled after a similar effort that has assisted over 1,000 immigrant families affected by the Tubbs Fire in Northern California.
The 805 UndocuFund was established by immigrant-serving organizations in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties including CAUSE, MICOP and Future Leaders of America, with support from the McCune Foundation and the Ventura County Community Foundation.
Funding from Direct Relief will be split between efforts to assist undocumented people in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties.
A third of those killed in the Jan. 9 mudslides were from immigrant families working in service jobs, according to the Associated Press. Many others have been impacted by the loss of housing and other economic impacts.
In addition to the $100,000 committed to CAUSE, Direct Relief has equipped first responders with specifically requested gear to aid the rescue and recovery efforts.
To date, Direct Relief’s response includes:
- Six utility vehicles (UTVs) distributed for first responders in the Montecito Fire Department, Santa Barbara County and City Fire Departments, and Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue. These vehicles were specifically requested by each department and allowed first responders to continue their search and rescue operations in extreme terrain. All vehicles were purchased from Santa Barbara Motorsports, which sold each at a discount.
- Direct Relief has also allocated $20,000 to purchase other equipment, including water rescue gear, inflatable kayak, safety lights, rope systems and more. These items came from several vendors, including companies in the Central Coast region, including CMC Rescue, WolfPack Gear, and the Wharf.
- Tetanus vaccines have been delivered to the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, who have been administering the vaccines, free of charge, to anyone impacted by the mudslide in Montecito.
Oprah Winfrey and Rob Lowe give Montecito its star power, but it’s people like Antonio and Victor Benitez who keep the wealthy Southern California community running. The Mexican brothers are gardeners and part of the town’s working-class immigrant population, which suffered outsized losses from the recent mudslides that killed at least 21, injured dozens and damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes.
Powerful rains washed over fire-denuded hillsides eight days ago, creating deadly and devastating flooding for communities across Southern California. First responders are working in the community of Montecito, where at least 20 people have been reported dead and more than 25 injured as a result of the flooding and debris flow that swept through in the early morning hours.
After more than a week spent trudging through the stagnant floodwaters and thick mud layering Montecito in search of survivors, emergency response personnel have shifted their focus from rescue to recovery. As the response enters this new phase and residents make plans to return to their homes, medical professionals also are shifting their focus toward longer-term health concerns.
As search and rescue efforts continue throughout Montecito after this week’s devastating mudslide, Direct Relief is supplying first responders with specialized tools. On Friday, Direct Relief purchased water rescue gear for Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue, including an inflatable kayak, fins and gloves.