This year, Aiman Youssef is thankful to be alive.
The 42-year-old Staten Island man said he used to have a $300,000 house he could be thankful for, and a car, and two vans full of things he was going to sell on EBay. Then Superstorm Sandy ruined all that and the rest of his neighborhood too, so just being alive is the best he can ask for right now.
"It's survival — that's what it is now," said Youssef, who sleeps in a tent, where it gets cold early in the morning, around 3 or 4 a.m. especially.
But that tent is no ordinary tent; it's a full-blown Sandy relief hub, bustling with supplies and volunteers "like 24-hours-seven here," as Youssef put it in a phone interview. And on Thursday, Youssef's temporary home was just one of the many locations around the Northeast that stayed busy over Thanksgiving nourishing the thousands of Sandy survivors and volunteers whose lingering struggles know no holiday.
"If you come on Staten Island, you come to South Beach, you'll see some things that will twist your stomach a bit," said Farid Kader, 29, a volunteer with Sandy Yellow Team, a relief group that works with Youssef's distribution site and, like many others, spent its Thanksgiving holiday distributing meals around storm-affected areas.
"It's starting to take a toll on people. Honestly, until the authorities rebuild things, I don't see myself hanging out with other people."