Edward and Helen (not their real names) were at home on a spring day in April 2014 when water began to pour through the back of their house in Pensacola, Florida. Their community was in midst of a massive weather system that produced severe storms, tornadoes, and historic rainfall throughout the Florida panhandle.
The flooding came quickly, overwhelming drains, ditches, and ponds, and funneled water right into homes. Three feet of water rose up and around Edward and Helen’s home, and eventually they had to be pulled to safety.
They are just two of hundreds of people still suffering today as a result of the April 2014 storm. According to the local recovery committee, Be Ready Alliance Coordinating for Emergencies (BRACE), at least 150 houses continue to be in need of major repair one year later. In response, World Renew's Disaster Response Services (DRS) has opened up a long-term reconstruction site in Pensacola in January.
World Renew DRS volunteers have been active in the recovery since shortly after the storms subsided. They started by conducting interviews with storm survivors and helping with sanitization and clean-up.
In the fall of 2014, World Renew DRS volunteers conducted a needs assessment, meeting one on one with storm survivors to make sure the needs of the vulnerable would be met.
Sienna (not her real name), a single mother, is one of the women the needs assessment team met with. The home she shares with her four young kids was also hit hard by the storm. A tree fell on their house, damaging the roof and allowing rainwater to pour in.
Sienna’s home had severe water damage that she did not know how to treat. Now her entire house is full of mold and mildew, and her kids are sick because of it. Edward and Helen are also continuing to deal with the storm's aftermath. The storm damaged their home's foundation and made it unsafe to live in.
After completing their needs assessments, World Renew DRS worked with BRACE to set up a reconstruction site. On January 10, the first team of DRS volunteers arrived. Each group of approximately 20 volunteers will work for three weeks and then switch out with another group.
The homeowners receiving recovery assistance are the most vulnerable—the elderly, disabled, those with medical issues, and single-parent families. Most of homeowners are also without adequate insurance, since the area is not historically prone to flooding and mortgage companies do not require flood coverage.
For Edward and Helen, for example, it would be impossible to cover the costs of the major repair work on their own. Edward is a disabled veteran and the couple has an annual income of less than $20,000. They received $25,000 between insurance and FEMA. This left a staggering gap of $100,000 for the necessary repairs.
The World Renew DRS work agreement with BRACE reflects a true partnership that will help restore the homes of Pensacola storm survivors to safety and security. BRACE is providing case management, materials, and the work permits needed for home repairs. World Renew DRS is providing self-contained teams of reconstruction volunteers, tool trailers, construction supervision, site management, and cooks.
Habitat for Humanity is donating the use of four houses to provide accommodations for World Renew DRS volunteers who come from across North America to repair and rebuild homes.
If you would like to volunteer with World Renew DRS or donate to help homeowners like Edward and Helen, visitworldrenew.net/drs.