A critical need is met: a new roof is celebrated!
Business as usual changed for the world at the onset of 2020. In the wake of the pandemic caused by the novel virus COVID-19, the way in which we connect with each other was forced to change. With the tenacious resilience of island culture, the leadership of LTRG challenged our team members never to miss a crisis. Community connection was redefined, and amazing service has been provided to the community of St. Croix!
73 Homes Rebuilt!
This reporting cycle closes out the final stateside volunteer teams. At the end of 2019, FEMA decided to discontinue the use of "invitational travel" for our volunteers, requiring teams to pay for their transportation to the island. Unexpectedly in March 2020, a travel ban was imposed on visitors to the island in response to COVID-19. These two events impacted the number of teams we were expecting to host. However, we completed three homes with 12 remaining on-island volunteers before the end of May. In the past two years, the construction team has had fantastic success, completing 53,696 total volunteer hours and completing repairs on 73 homes! By the end of June, the construction team was dismantled, and Disaster Case Managers are resourcing other on-island alternatives to continue assisting residents with repairs.
Disaster Case Management
This quarter, the LTRG Disaster Case Managers (DCMs) provided services to an active caseload comprised of 114 clients. One of the program's funding sources covering minor home repairs, the American Red Cross through the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, is finally depleted. This has decreased the Disaster Case Manager's ability to match clients with direct financial assistance for hurricane Maria home repairs.
Case closings during this quarter were 13, with three new enrollments, thus reducing the number of active cases to 104. Four clients started the process of receiving needed repairs. Three contracts are pending, awaiting the processing of checks and finalizing agreements between the client and contractor. Five clients have been inspected by Envision Tomorrow and anxiously await their next steps to access this government-funded rebuild program. Two clients were referred to Virgin Islands Partners for Healthy Community (VIPHC) Family Care Managers for health services through the public health system. Estimates by contractors were conducted for seven clients. DCMs also spent a day assembling "goody bags" for active clients related to preventing the spread of the COVID – 19 virus. These consisted of masks, gloves, disinfectants, and hand sanitizer and were made possible through a generous donation from the LTRG and VIPHC.
Unmet Needs Committee
The Unmet Needs Committee fills a critical role in disaster recovery. When a Disaster Case Manager (DCM) has exhausted all resources available to a beneficiary, and needs are still not met, the Unmet Needs Committee steps in to fill the gap. Since the Unmet Needs Roundtable Convened, eight St. Croix referrals have been funded. Three referral repairs were completed by the end of June, and the remaining five are in various stages of completion. The total award for these efforts was $171,995. These cases are all St. Croix residents who, for one reason or another, will not qualify for any of the federally funded rebuild programs. The following is an overview, submitted by a DCM, of one of the cases that were funded:
Like many of our underserved neighbors on St. Croix that experienced extensive damage in the storms, this resident had no choice but to remain in a damaged home, despite the unsafe and unsanitary conditions. With no resources to make the necessary repairs to the home and without the option to move elsewhere, this resident has lived under a leaking roof that has caused excessive mold growth that is now affecting the client's health. The roof had been covered by a blue tarp for nearly three full years since the hurricanes in 2017 and was no longer keeping the home dry. The award amount was $36,245 and covered the following repairs:
- Repaired roof and ceiling
- Removed and replaced damaged interior walls
- Replaced exterior doors
- Replaced all windows
- Repaired broken masonry columns that support the roof
The repairs to the roof started at the end of June 2020, and the contractor is currently working on the roof before doing the interior repairs.
On behalf of the Long Term Recovery Group, we give thanks to GlobalGiving for understanding and working with us to use these funds to aid the most vulnerable in our community. The funds are now exhausted for this committee, and the LTRG is working to identify funding to serve more residents who have no other options.
Connecting, Engaging, and Equipping Residents with Resilience Preparedness
The LTRG offers free workshops to organizations and congregations seeking to equip their members to be "Prepared to be Your Own First Responder." The goal of the workshops is to effect a cultural change from one of reaction to one of preparedness--not only for hurricanes but for any disaster that could come our way. When the unexpected disaster of COVID-19 appeared, the LTRG leaped to action. The Disaster Preparedness Workshops are currently virtual! This quarter, three virtual workshops have been offered. Ms. Lang, a Non-Profit Community Leader, stated:
This presentation was excellent! You engaged us, equipped us, inspired us, and clearly communicated the seriousness of proper preparation. We need this all over the island, especially on the radios.
The LTRG also took advantage of our social media platforms. Six original videos were shared on Facebook to educate and engage the community while practicing social distancing each day during Hurricane Preparedness Week. Shorter versions of these videos were shared on Instagram. 31,000 users were reached via the Facebook platform! This created almost 100 new followers and a library of hurricane preparedness videos for the LTRG. Day 4, for example, provided simple ways that residents can prepare their homes and can be seen here: https://www.facebook.com/stxltrg/videos/883820405428024/
We are currently "SOLD OUT" and are booked solid by public, private, and NGOs for workshops that empower our community stakeholders on personal and organizational preparedness. These workshops and the online videos are filled with practical tools and guides for each member of the family, for building strength, increasing awareness, and inspiring change.
Collaboration is the Key
In the wake of the Stay-At-Home Orders restricting movement about the island, many of our senior residents were not able to get out for essential items. The LTRG, in partnership with Mario's Crystal Water Company and the Frederiksted Lions Club, began a biweekly water distribution at the Louis E. Brown Senior Center to ensure the seniors had access to drinking water. The residents are receiving a five-gallon bottle of water with filters on a biweekly delivery schedule. The seniors were empowered with COVID-19 information flyers to become more educated on the pandemic.
To deepen our support of our community in response to COVID-19, the LTRG has also partnered with a local designer, Designs By Regal, to provide community stakeholders in grocery stores, gas stations, laundromats, and other common areas with locally designed cloth masks. This creates access to reusable masks, helping residents of St. Croix to abide by the "No Mask, No Service" Order issued to help protect against the spread of COVID-19.
During the Stay-At-Home period this quarter, we learned one of our local food distribution partners, Catholic Charities, was low on food and key essentials for the day to day operations of feeding the homeless. In partnership with TWIGS Ministry, Episcopal Deanery, Islamic Society, and members of AARP, we collectively donate items needed for our partner and critical service provider, Catholic Charities, to continue serving the homeless community.
The LTRG has also begun working with Community First in their efforts to renovate and open a safe residence shelter for the homeless members of our community. We have taken the lead by contacting our local Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD) Partners to share the needs for personal hygiene items, men's clothing, and cleaning supplies. These collection efforts are ongoing for the duration of the renovation process.
The Virgin Islands Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VI VOAD) is currently meeting monthly on each island and as a territory collectively. So far, we have sourced and distributed 200 gallons of sanitizer through member organizations as well as 10,000 masks. The VI VOAD is currently working to source 1,000 hurricane preparedness kits that will be distributed across the territory to the most vulnerable populations.
Making A Difference…
The St. Croix Long Term Recovery Group is an organization committed to making a crucial difference in the lives of our community stakeholders, one life, one business, one mind at a time. While emergency relief and even intermediate recovery and survival absorb resources for the first one to two years, we believe that our community is now in a stage where it is truly able to build independence and resilience for the future. As such, the time is now to engage our communities like never before, and we thank you for standing shoulder to shoulder with us now and into the future!
Spreading Health & Access to Masks Amid Recovery!
Ensuring seniors have drinking water in quarantine
Supplies for our nonprofits to serve our homeless
Increasing preparedness one workshop at a time!