SMHA launched our Rural Recovery Response once again to help recovery homes and small businesses in the West End, adapting our model and incorporating innovations to help meet the particular needs of community. We asked community leadership to identify homes and businesses for recovery rather than our taking applications and making the determination ourselves. We know that community members themselves are the best source of information about which homes flooded, what homes are ownership versus rental, and which families exhibit a culture of appreciation and a spirit of generosity and are thus a “fit” with SMHA’s Rural Recovery Response. We partnered with the West End Council of Neighborhood Associations, or WECNA, to select homes and businesses in which we would invest our recovery resources. WECNA board members vote on the homes/businesses presented for consideration and submits them to SMHA.
Secondly, we pioneered the term “Family Owned” as a criterion for a home to be included in our flood recovery efforts. Government programs –including the State’s Shelter At Home program designed to help families return quickly to their homes – require that a home be “Owner Occupied.” This means that the family must prove ownership and demonstrate clear title in order to receive assistance. SMHA understands that many families, particularly in the African American community, do not typically open succession when a homeowner dies. Rather, a family member continues living in or moves into the home by mutual agreement and understanding among the family. For example, an aunt who lived with and cared for the ailing grandmother would likely remain in the home after the grandmother passed away. We know that “proving title” is often a significant barrier to families participating in programs and initiatives, and we deliberately adjusted our program criteria to remove this barrier to participating in our Rural Recovery Response in the West End.
Through our Rural Recovery Response, SMHA funded the recovery of 13 homes, two small businesses and a church in the West End of New Iberia.