SMHA’s Rural Recovery Response is a new model of rebuilding and recovery that reflects SMHA’s philosophy of self-help, an entrepreneurial approach, and an emphasis on family and community development. SMHA leverages families’ self-help by bringing volunteer labor, materials and, when applicable, grant dollars into the home recovery package.
Early in a recovery effort, SMHA establishes detailed criteria and uses its Field Handbook to guide field personnel in identifying families and/or businesses to participate in the Rural Recovery Response. The criteria for selection are:
- There is a tangible need for recovery/rebuilding assistance – the families’ home or business was damaged or destroyed by the disaster;
- There is a gap between the cost of recovery/rebuilding and funding available from other sources (for example, homeowner’s insurance, flood insurance, FEMA assistance);
- The families demonstrate their willingness for “self-help” participation in the recovery process;
- There are circumstances of special need, i.e. elderly, disabled, low-income, single parent, health issues; and
- The families demonstrate a spirit of generosity and appreciation—values that foster community recovery.
Home/Business Recovery Process
The Rural Recovery Task Force engages in a four-phase recovery process for existing homes that are salvageable. In Phase I, volunteers assist the family with removing furniture and other belongings and basic cleanup of the structure (tearing out flood damaged flooring, removing mud). In Phase II, volunteers work with the family to remove damaged or mold-infested sheetrock or paneling and help the families treat the structure for mold. Once site visits have determined satisfactory completion of Phase II, volunteers move on to Phase III, re-insulating, and Phase IV, refinishing the walls and floors.
In cases where SMHA’s field personnel have determined that a home cannot be saved, SMHA’s housing department works with the family to build a new home or locate and purchase an existing home.
SMHA provides technical assistance, grants and loans to families or businesses when volunteer/self-help labor is insufficient to recover the home or business. The amount granted to a family or business varies widely based on the extent of damage sustained and the family’s/business’s access to other resources. Grants average $5,000 for both homeowners and small businesses; grants to homeowners are in the form of building materials and supplies, and grants for businesses vary in form on a case-by-case basis depending on what is needed.
SMHA’s new model of recovery does not provide handouts based on complicated formulas but rather builds on the strengths of the family. SMHA’s model results in empowerment and dignity, a positive shift away from more classic models that can be demeaning to families who need help. SMHA’s Rural Recovery Response builds on families’ capacity for self-help – supplementing and complementing what families can and will do to rebuild their lives. SMHA asks families to allow us to participate in their efforts and, in return, they tell us their stories – for our web site and newsletters and to donors and funders on tour. Families tell their stories with the knowledge that their stories are not only heard but also make a difference in attracting attention – and funding – to rural Louisiana and informing local and state policy that impacts the hurricane recovery process.