Feb 25, 2019

Rebuilding for Resilience on St. John, Virgin Islands

Home number 4
Home number 4

When the St. John Long Term Recovery Team (LTRT) began this campaign with GlobalGiving, we had the home of one vulnerable resident under construction.  Now, nine months later, we have completed five homes and are currently working on 13 more.  LTRT started the overwhelming task with one VI licensed contractor.  We now operate with six construction teams and 5 All Hands and Hearts voluntary labor teams.  We push forward and escalate the program in order to get as many of our community members safely back in their homes as quickly as possible.  We do that with the generous support of donors like you.

The impact of a "blue roof" cannot be fully expressed to someone who has never truly experienced life in a disaster zone.  As the ebb and flow of tourism breathes life into our re-emerging economy, the blue dots lining the horizon are lost to those in search of sunsets and happy hours.  Each of these tarps represent a person or family who still, 17 months after Irma devastated St. John, lie in bed at night wondering if they will be awoken by the rain falling into their damaged home.  They wonder if their water will work when they wake up in the morning or if the extension cord providing limited power will be enough to keep food cold in the fridge. 

The LTRT's Disaster Case Management team is currently reviewing 80 construction related cases, in addition to those already completed or under construction.    There are others out there who we have not yet seen that will eventually come forward for help.  Hurricane Irma damaged or destroyed 74% of St. John’s low and middle income homes and the costs associated with rebuilding are astronomical.  We average $140,000 for a 1200 square foot home with 50% or less damage.  The majority of our clients are seniors who survive solely on social security funds.  There would be little to no chance of them ever returning home without the assistance of the LTRT’s rebuild program.

The LTRT stepped in to launch this program when it became increasingly clear that government subsidized programs were not going to provide effective and efficient assistance to our community.  Our clients were experiencing disaster fatigue with no hope for the future as they were bounced between FEMA, SBA and Emergency Home Repair VI. Now, with so many construction projects completed or underway, there is a glimmer of light in their eyes when they walk into the office. Elderly community members are returning to restored and resilient homes, built better than were before.

Standing in her newly reconstructed home, a former school teacher looked around in awe with an unforgettable smile on her face. When she and her son were being evacuated by boat between Irma and Maria, he told her they would probably never be able to rebuild the family home that she had designed with her late husband. Now, she works to restore her once beautiful gardens surrounding the house that she thought she would never call home again.

Home number 5
Home number 5

Links:

Nov 26, 2018

Resilient Housing Initiative - Making Progress

Home #2- Before & After Side Angle
Home #2- Before & After Side Angle

Since last winter, the STJ Angels- Long Term Recovery Team has been working diligently to assess the needs of our community. The super storm Irma, followed by the CAT 5 Maria, destroyed or damaged 74% of low and middle income homes on the island of St. John according to reports from USDA/HUD. Many of our clients have been designated as vulnerable and are still living in unsafe conditions with the inability to financially or emotionally manage the reconstruction of their homes. Our organization, along with our partnering non-profit agencies, have taken on the task of rebuilding up to 150 primary residences for our vulnerable community members in a more resilient manner than before the storms.

Over the past month, we have completed the construction of three homes and currently have five new projects under construction. We have 35 clients who have qualified for the program and an additional 45 in the process of submitting documents and signing contracts. The majority of our clients are over 65 and financially incapable of completing an incredibly expensive construction project in our remote location.

We are projecting that each home we complete will cost our organizations, on average, $150,000 with half of that amount being building materials. We are scheduling ourselves with a goal of completing 5-8 homes per month, totaling at $400-600K per month for supplies alone. The money generated by this project is dedicated to the purchase, distribution and allocation of these materials to be used by Virgin Islands licensed contractors to rebuild homes in a code compliant fashion with special attention to applying ADA compliancy in regards to walk ways, kitchen and bathroom spaces for our aging clients.

The second house we finished belongs to a retired school teacher who designed the original home with her late husband. She has been staying with her daughter in the states since the storms. Her home was destroyed by Irma while she and her son rode the storm out in the cement storage room below her living room. She was evacuated to St. Croix via private boat between Irma and Maria and her son told her when they left that it was over. There was no way they would be able to rebuild their family’s home.

She returned to St. John two weeks ago and we visited her in her home last Wednesday. She stood with tears in her eyes that moved silently over the newly constructed home. Her home has been rebuilt with reinforced ceiling covered with a beautifully detailed paint job. There are grab bars as a safety precaution newly installed in the shower and one of our team was able to secure some like new furnishings from a villa owner. She looked around at her once beautifully terraced gardens and remarked how excited she was to work in them again. She hugged each of us as we left, expressing her gratitude and giving thanks for all that had been done for her. We were just grateful she was able to be back in her home. Returning to a “new” type of normal.

We have built this program from the ground up and are moving forward and ramping up efforts to reach our goals and return all of our clients to this “new normal” as quickly as possible. Disaster fatigue is a very real thing and they are tired of federal programs over promising and under delivering. They are tired of contractors taking on their project and then not showing up for weeks at a time. They are tired of buckets on their floor and blue tarps on their roof. With continued support from generous donors, we can move forward and bridge these gaps to a full recovery.

Home #1- Before and After ADA Compliant Bathroom
Home #1- Before and After ADA Compliant Bathroom
Home#1- Before & After Handicap Ramp at Entrance
Home#1- Before & After Handicap Ramp at Entrance
Home#1- Before & After Kitchen
Home#1- Before & After Kitchen
House #2- Newly installed fan and detailed ceiling
House #2- Newly installed fan and detailed ceiling

Links:


Attachments:
Aug 30, 2018

Resilient Housing Initiative

arcGIS imagery of our projects
arcGIS imagery of our projects

After the 2017 storms damaged nearly 74% of low and middle income we began a Senior Roofing Initiative in order to assist the elderly, vulnerable residents on St. John with construction efforts on their primary residences.  Realizing quickly that there was much more work to be done, we teamed up with two other non-profit organizations, All Hands and Hearts and Love City Strong, to develop what we call the Resilient Housing Initiative (RHI).  Thus allowing us to expand our scope to help not just senior reseidents, but all vulnerable, low-income St. Johnians in need of a dry, safe place to sleep at night.

Our organization's role in this partnership is to provide the staff support from Disaster Case Management to do outreach and properly qualify clients for our rebuild program and construction facilitation from our in-house leads.  One of the responsibilities of our in-house construction team is obtaining the expensive permits associated with these projects.  We have set aside $17,000 of our GlobalGiving Funds in order to go through the permit process for ten homes (roughly $1700/home).

We are also the responsible party for supplying the materials for these projects.  In that way, the Cruzan Island Spirit Fund has been invaluable.  Last week, we placed a bulk order for both structural and and non-structural materials that totaled in close to $50,000.  These materials will aid in the completion of 3-4 homes and with the steady flow of funds from Cruzan, we are able to continue to order these supplies as needed without the added worry of where our next funding is coming from.  We plan to place similar orders with the Cruzan money each month as long as the funding is available to us. 

Additonally, we set up three local accounts with $5000 in each of them ($15,000). These accounts will be used to pull home specific items that will not fall under the bulk materials being ordered.  They also allow us easier access to items we run out of on site and the opportunity to support local businesses which is vital in our post-storm declining economy. 

As of this week, we have compiled the following numbers in reference to the success of the RHI:

Roofing Projects Completed:  3

Full Rebuild Complete:  1

Projects Beginning this Week:  3

Vetted Clients Awaiting Assessments:  28

Clients in the Vetting Process:  22

We have just begun to speed up our efforts as with this new partnership and the assistance of funds through this program.  We plan to move forward more quickly with these 50 homes beginning this month and are aggressively conducting outreach activities to reach more of those in need of our help.

The above image is from our in-house arc-GIS system, shared amongst our partner organizations.  The homes notated on the map are those we have identified and are in our evaluation process.  Our internal users are able to access information in regards to the construction notes, schedule/scope of work and qualifying factors by clicking on the icon.

"Before" shot of one of our current projects
"Before" shot of one of our current projects
Roof Number 4 Under Way!
Roof Number 4 Under Way!
Roof number one is complete!
Roof number one is complete!
 
WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.