The spirit and resiliency of a people are most strongly on display in the aftermath of a disaster. As we recover from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the unity of the community is vital towards the achievement of a clear and concerted vision.
The St. Croix Long-Term Recovery Group (LTRG) is a cooperative body that is made up of representatives from faith-based, non-profit, government, business, and other organizations working within St. Croix to assist individuals and families as they recover from Hurricane Maria.
The goal of the LTRG is to unite recovery resources with the community needs in order to ensure that even the most vulnerable in the community recover from the disaster.
The LTRG officially formed under the fiscal sponsorship of the St. Croix Foundation for Community Development in 2015. Under the guidance of FEMA and the American Red Cross, members formed committees to carry out the work of the organization.
The year of the pandemic, 2020, is in the books! We faced new challenges, new obstacles, new norms, and finished the year with much accomplished, stronger community partnerships, increased coordination with government agencies, and a renewed commitment to our beloved island home.
In this year of quarantines, hand sanitizer and mask-wearing, we celebrated new partnerships with Frederiksted Twin Lions Club, Mario's Water Crystal, Guayabal Foundation, St. Croix Boys and Girls Club, Broadband VI, Flemings' Transport, Designs by Regal, Project Hope, Catholic Charities, Mutiny Island Vodka, and Community First. We strengthened our work with FEMA, VITEMA, Dept. of Health, Dept. of Human Services, Dept. of Public Works, the Office of Disaster Recovery, and AARP.
We met needs by providing water, masks, and hand sanitizers to senior communities. We provided fresh produce to vulnerable populations. Our youth filled sandbags and our members helped distribute them to the community. We provided more than 500 hurricane prep kits to seniors in St. Croix. We raised $11,856.17 between 28 local businesses and 11 individual families. And we granted $98, 130.84 to 22 faith-based organizations.
We worked with our sister islands to bring the VI Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) back in good standing, with updated bylaws and newly elected officers from both districts.
We are grateful for the support of the St. Croix Foundation for Community Development through their fiscal sponsorship and to our wonderful partners at GlobalGiving and Island Spirit Fund for their continued financial support.
In the coming year, we will continue to transition from our Long Term Recovery Group status to the St. Croix COAD (Community Organizations Active in Disaster) as we turn our focus to preparing for all hazards that could impact our island.
With gratitude for allowing us to serve the St. Croix community and our sister islands, the staff of the St. Croix Long Term Recovery Group:
Jay Rollins, Executive Director for National & Regional Relationships
Delia Richardson, Executive Director for Community Engagement
Christina Joseph, Executive Assistant
Rosalie Javois, VISTA
Dametria Douglas, VISTA
DISASTER CASE MANAGEMENT
Disaster Case Managers (DCMs) are the life-line for disaster recovery in helping families access resources to recovery. During this reporting period, 101 clients were served, including two new enrollees into the program. Services continue to focus on providing financial assistance, service referrals, advocacy, and comprehensive goal setting. The program aims to attract residents whose homes are still in need of repair from damage caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 to assist them with any help they may need for a return to normalcy and maneuvering the requirements of different funding opportunities.
Twenty-four cases were closed this reporting cycle. Service coordination contributed to one long-standing client finally accessing a new apartment through Section 8. This disabled client was referred after the hurricane when the landlord increased rent beyond the capacity to pay while refusing to make storm-related repairs. With the threat of homelessness looming due to the expiration of the state of emergency for eviction expiring later this year, the DCM team found a funding source to pay a portion of the moving fees, enabling the client to move.
There are currently 54 clients awaiting the Envision Tomorrow program, which provides home repairs through a federally funded program. Progress has been made in acquiring information on the steps to approve home repairs through this program. We anticipate these clients being able to continue to move toward restoration, with DCM support and guidance. One family member spoke fondly of the DCM that helped her mother recover from the storm damage:
“Mother's home was severely damaged by Hurricane Maria and despite the damages, she was forced to continue to live in the dwelling. She is a senior and appreciates her independence but struggled to go through the recovery process. She had been living in the damaged home since the hurricane and we feared for her health because of the extent of the damages. We pursued all the available avenues we could find but did not get any solution. Our DCM was able to obtain funds for the necessary repairs to make the home comfortable, safe, sanitary, and secure and our mother was able to regain her life and independence."
The pandemic forced us to shut down our volunteer rebuild committee. Our last team left on April 4, 2020. With the help of Lutheran Disaster Services reconstruction staff and My Brother's Workshop staff and youth, they were able to complete two additional homes. The program officially closed on June 26.
Our sincerest thanks and gratitude to Mr. Chris Finch of Lutheran Social Services for chairing this committee and working with all the volunteers that came to support our efforts. They were able to accomplish rebuilding 71 homes through the program.
The Unmet Needs Committee fills a critical role in disaster recovery. When a Disaster Case Manager has exhausted all resources available to a beneficiary and needs are still not met, the Unmet Needs Committee steps in to fill the gap.
With the closing of the Rebuild Program, funding was shifted to the Unmet Needs Committee to continue to support our clients. In 2020, we were able to fund 11 cases through funding from Cane Bay Cares, CFVI, and GlobalGiving totaling $202,575.75. Here are two examples of cases that were funded:
Case 1 is a 77-year-old disabled St. Croix resident that has been living in a home severely damaged by Hurricane Maria for the past three years. This client is in poor health and legally blind. The client sustained total roof damage that resulted in massive leaks throughout the home and damage to the windows, doors, and tiled floors. The electrical wiring throughout the home sustained major damage from water entering the circuitry. Although some progress has been made, the home still has significant repairs that need to be completed to make the home livable, safe, sanitary, and secure. The Unmet Needs Committee will provide funding for the contractor fees to repair the electrical system in the home, replace damaged windows and exterior doors, and repair cracks in the interior load-bearing walls.
Case 2 is a 52-year-old St. Croix retired senior resident that sustained major damage to their home during Hurricane Maria. The damage included total loss of the roof, damaged kitchen, bathroom, windows, and floors due to the home being flooded. All appliances and furniture inside the home were destroyed. The home is still without a functioning kitchen. The Unmet Needs Committee will provide funding for the contractor to install kitchen cabinets and a sink.
The Youth Committee's fearless chair, Xawntoia Franklin, and her committee have a mission to include youth voices in the recovery process-for the youth, by the youth.
Three LTRG Youth Committee (YC) members, twelve Disaster Preparedness Ambassadors (DPA), and five community members participated in the St. Croix Children's parade on January 3, 2020. Their parade entry consisted of a dance routine, a truck with DJ, props depicting various disaster preparedness items (eg. First aid kits, flashlights, bleach, bottled water, etc.). DPAs handed out first aid kits and shouted out a newly formed slogan that 'Preparedness doesn't start in May it starts from Fete'.
The LTRGYC hosted biweekly meetings from January through June 2020 in the hopes of hosting a Youth Opportunity Fair in May 2020. Unfortunately, due to COVID, the island went into an island-wide shutdown and the YC and DPA were forced to pivot to implementing virtual strategies in order to provide support to youth quarantined at home. During March 2020 - June 2020, DPA produced five 1:00 minute videos that were posted to social media (eg. TikTok, lnstagram, Facebook etc). Produced videos covered staying safe during a pandemic and disaster preparedness protocols. The videos were viewed hundreds of times and increased traffic to the LTRG's social media pages while sharing important information. While virtual meetings continued throughout the summer, meetings consisted of procedural housekeeping issues and supporting DPA as they navigated their way to a new normal.
The LTRGYC members suffered a series of personal losses that led to a hiatus of meetings in September and October. Meetings resumed in November with FEMA Corps participating in the most recent virtual meeting hosted on November 19, 2020.
The Wellness Committee started 2020 off strong by recognizing faith organizations who had participated in activities and projects planned by the Wellness Committee and/or in collaboration with our partners. Certificates were printed, sleeved, and presented at 2 LTRG Townhalls. We planned an additional Meet and Greet/VOAD Informational Meeting to distribute the remainder of certificates but were required to postpone due to Covid-19 restrict ions.
Due to Covid-19, much of our focus changed to Wellness Check-in Calls/emails to faith leaders to encourage, assess needs, inform of community needs, announce available training/workshops/resources, and facilitate collaborative efforts. We also began focusing more intently on the mental health needs of the community, which seemed to be magnified by Covid-related circumstances.
Many new collaborative relationships were started or deepened, additional faith leader contacts were made, workshops and various events were promoted and even attended by committee members, many plans were formulated, but modified and often eventually postponed due to Covid-19 and related issues. The committee continued to meet 1-2 times monthly, primarily via Zoom.
As we said before, the work in 2021 will not slow down! Please help us continue the work through spreading the word, attending our virtual town hall meetings, volunteering on a committee, and monetary donations.
We are grateful and proud of the work that has been accomplished, and we look forward to continuing to serve in 2021.