Nonprofits Working To Help St. Johnians Rebuild Resiliently

Photo taken in September 2017 shows hurricane damaged property on St. John.
Photo taken in September 2017 shows hurricane damaged property on St. John.

Several St. John nonprofit organizations are working together to help St. John homeowners rebuild in a more resilient, storm-resistant fashion after last year’s storms.

Love City Strong, Inc., the St. John Angels – Long Term Recovery Team, the St. John Community Foundation, and All Hands & Hearts – Smart Response have partnered to launch the resilient housing initiative.

This long-term effort focuses on construction projects of varying size and scope designed to return St. John’s vulnerable residents to stable living situations in homes rebuilt in a resilient manner that will minimize future damage, organizers said in a statement Monday.

Love City Strong’s Erin Taylor is in charge of overall project management, logistics, and agency coordination.

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“All of the organizations involved are committed to combining our resources and our varied skill sets to streamline rebuilds for those most in need,” Taylor said.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that 74 percent of low and middle income residential structures on St. John were damaged or destroyed by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Although there has been a tremendous amount of federal aid and public assistance awarded to residents throughout the territory, navigating these complicated systems is an arduous process, and qualified contractors are limited. As a result, many seniors, low-income families and other St. John residents are still struggling to repair their homes.

One of the most difficult tasks in post-disaster reconstruction is organizing the necessary processes and procedures; particularly in regard to all the of the participants such as the beneficiary, professional consultants, contractors, suppliers, public authorities, and nongovernmental organizations.

To complicate the situation, supplies and labor in the territory are at a premium. While the wealthiest of St. John’s homeowners are able to pay higher costs for rebuilding, ensuring that their projects are prioritized, low and middle income homeowners are left without any available resources. Nearly one year after the 2017 hurricanes, the partners in this initiative encounter these individuals every day – many are clients of existing relief programs.

“By combining our resources and expertise we have the unique opportunity to provide specific and appropriate strategies for returning residents to their homes in a safe, permanent and code compliant manner,” Heidi Arnold,of the STJ Angels – Long Term Recovery Team said.

St. John residents interested in applying for assistance under the resilient housing initiative must first contact the St. John Angels – Long Term Recovery Team’s disaster case managers the case managers are available to connect residents with a variety of recovery-related programs, including the resilient housing initiative.

Their disaster case management office is in Cruz Bay on the third floor of The Marketplace, in the Office Suites II. They can also be reached by phone at (340) 693-9410, or email at [email protected]

The resilient housing initiative aims to support those St. John residents who do not have the required resources to undertake their own repairs. Eligible participants are full-time St. John residents who, upon case-by-case evaluation, are a member of one or more of the following categories: seniors, low income families, single parent families, pregnant women, homebound individuals, residents with non-emergency medical needs, and individuals with extenuating circumstances.

The team is actively seeking more qualified applicants and “is working daily to line up projects for our construction teams to assess,” Hillary Bonner of the STJ Angels – Long Term Recovery Team said.

“Our goal is to help as many residents as we can,” she said.

More information on the Resilient Housing Initiative is available by contacting Meaghan Enright at [email protected]

Shared content for Virgin Islands Source and St. John Tradewinds.

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