TAMPA— Members of the community have united to form Decentralized Response, a grassroots response coalition, in the wake of the environmental and economic devastation caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Decentralized Response previously operated under the title Irma Decentralized Response. The name was changed when the group’s relief effort extended beyond hurricane Irma.
Volunteers have supplies sent to a three-bedroom house in Tampa that they call the hub. They store goods there and distribute them statewide. The group is even planning a relief trip to Puerto Rico.
Dezeray Lyn, a woman who assisted in the formation of the response group, discussed the group’s main mission, where they’ve been and where they’re going.
“We are here to feed and supply anyone in the community who needs it,” Lyn said. “We also traveled to Apopka, Immokalee and the Keys to give the community there assistance.”
Lyn is also a co-founder of Mutual Aid Disaster Relief. According to the Facebook page, MADR is a grassroots network with a mission to provide disaster relief based on the principles of solidarity, mutual aid and autonomous direct action.
Members of MADR and other activists began mobilizing, as the threat of Irma loomed, to help those in need before, during and after the storm. They formed distribution teams to take hurricane packs containing food, water and hygiene products to refugee families days before Irma hit. The group was a saving grace for those trapped in the rain and high winds.
“We received a call to our relief line from someone trapped in the storm,” Lyn said. “They were stuck on the side of the interstate, and the police said the winds were too high to send anyone to help them, so we sent our people to pick them up.”
Mostly, the poorer communities were without water and power for extended amounts of time after Irma passed. Decentralized Response provided those neighborhoods in need with water, food and even generators, in some cases.
Lyn and activists also traveled to Apopka and Immokalee to provide relief. Apopka residents found themselves without power for many days in their small, farming community. It was loosely estimated that 70 percent of the citrus crop was lost during the storm.
Immokalee was hit harder by Irma than many other parts of Florida. More help was needed, so the Coalition of Immokalee Workers worked hard to receive and distribute goods. The town of migrant farmers didn’t have power for weeks and lost a major portion of their crops. Some even lost their homes.
Relief efforts continue. However, the aid priority of Puerto Rico and other islands has made itself apparent. The Decentralized Response crew is gearing up to make a trip to the devastated island.
“We are leaving on a weeklong trip to Puerto Rico on October 12,” Lyn said.
Their goal is to help people in need after hurricane Maria. They will distribute relief goods that are being collected in a shipping container before the trip. It should be there when they arrive.
Members of Decentralized Response feel that state efforts are not enough considering the destruction in Puerto Rico.
“We must demand that they do more, but also help as a community however we can,” Lyn said.