"She doesn’t have the money to pay anyone to fix her home; she doesn’t know what to do,” said Richard Anema, a volunteer with World Renew’s Disaster Response Services (DRS).
Sienna and her children are one of 300 families interviewed by World Renew DRS who are still suffering from the April 2014 flood. This flooding has been described as “stealth-like” in that it came very quickly and had little nationwide coverage. The massive rains fell on relatively flat land and had nowhere to go. It overwhelmed drains, ditches, and ponds, essentially funneling water right into homes.
“The Florida panhandle was affected by four weather systems from April 7 through May 2, 2014, that produced historic rain fall, severe storms, tornadoes, and straight line winds. According to 30-year PRISM (prism.oregonstate.edu) data, rainfall exceeded norms by 200 to 600 percent. More than 25 inches of rain fell over a 36-hour period, and five panhandle counties received a federal disaster declaration (sic),” said Andrea Krieger, president of the United Way of Escambia County in Pensacola.
"Most of these homeowners have an annual income of less than $20,000. Many also have no flood insurance because the Pensacola area is not historically prone to flooding, so mortgage companies did not require flood insurance.”
“Sienna needs her roof repaired, her house gutted, and the mold removed. She is currently looking for a job and applying for disability. With upwards of $33,000 in repairs, and living on less than $10,000 a year, she does not know how she will recover without help,” Anema says.
But there is hope for Sienna and her neighbors because World Renew DRS is making a significant commitment to disaster survivors in Pensacola in Escambia County, Florida. On January 10, 2015, World Renew DRS will open a long-term reconstruction site to repair homes for people like Sienna.
World Renew DRS has been active in the recovery efforts in Pensacola since shortly after the storms subsided. In June, World Renew DRS rapid response volunteers helped homeowners with sanitizing and clean up. In September, a needs assessment team conducted one-on-one interviews with 300 storm survivors to make sure that the needs of vulnerable people like Sienna would be addressed. World Renew DRS regional managers for the area, Eric and Nancy Johnson, spent countless hours working with the Be Ready Alliance Coordinating for Emergencies (BRACE), the local recovery committee, to work out the details of operating a reconstruction site in Pensacola.
“The homeowners the World Renew DRS will be helping are the most vulnerable, the elderly, disabled, those with medical issues, and single parent families,” says Eric Johnson. “Most of these homeowners have an annual income of less than $20,000. Many also have no flood insurance because the Pensacola area is not historically prone to flooding, so mortgage companies did not require flood insurance.”
The World Renew DRS work agreement with BRACE reflects a true partnership that will help restore the homes of storm survivors to safety and security. According to the agreement BRACE will provide case management, materials, and the work permits needed for home repairs. World Renew DRS will provide 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.
The new reconstruction site in Pensacola will be an addition to the World Renew DRS sites that are currently operating in High River, Alberta, and Ocean County, New Jersey.
“Opening a site in Florida is unique compared to our Alberta and New Jersey sites in one regard. The historic flooding in Alberta and Super-storm Sandy in New Jersey were all over the news and the need was very apparent,” says Ron Willett, World Renew DRS director. “The Florida flooding, however, was barely a blip on the national news, and it did not gain the attention that often raises the money we need to respond. It became clear after a needs assessment that our help is desperately needed by this community. We have the funds and to operate for a short period of time, but we are asking for donations, involvement, and prayer to ensure we can continue to help the people affected by this stealth-like disaster.”
To donate to the Pensacola Flood Response, click HERE.
*Name changed to protect privacy.