New tarp day turned into let's just get it done!
Almost 2 years ago the island of St. John was hit head on by two category 5 hurricanes. It feels very strange in a disassociated way to even type those words. Working in hurricane recovery we re-live the devastation of those two storms everyday. We see it in our daily lives, it’s strewn across our island, it’s expressed on survivors faces and lives in our hearts.
Rather than focus on the usual numbers of our progress on how we have now completed 23 homes, 9 homes under construction with 10 more in pre-construction phases ( excuse my while I get the statistics part out of the way ). Please excuse my stream of consciousness style of writing - I want to talk about one special home from my heart.
This particular home was damaged during Hurricane Irma and is occupied by a very brave woman we will call “Claire” for privacy’s sake. Her situation was challenging – the storms resulted in her losing work and with no shelter on island. She had no choice but to remain living in a home where see could see thru her roof in her living room. She was living like this for 18 months. After the storm there were loads of agency’s and NGO’s that had promised her help. Some even stopped by and made promotional videos, put her story on YouTube but never to return. She came to us without any hope of making her life whole again.
Claire’s case was also challenging from a building perspective. Despite being a family home where she raised her children, there where deed issues with the property that we experience so much here in the Virgin Islands. The land here belongs to it’s people. In a place where homes are passed from generation to generation you do not feel the need to have the government tell you who lives there.
Claire walked into our offices asking for help she had exhausted all avenues. She had been spending what little money traveling to St.Thomas to get access to free legal advice., We pulled together our advisory board consisting of truel St. Johnians, people that have lived here all of their lives that grew up with this family and know that this is her families home. Looking at the case in practical / common sense terms, cutting through the ‘red tape’ of previous rebuild efforts we were able to move forward.
What happened next was simply amazing. We asked for help from Kenny Chesney’s Love For Love City group to get a new tarp on the home while pre-construction planning was underway. Due to the extensive damage to the homes roof – instead of re-tarping Love For Love City began replacing the entire roof. We visited Claire on a day we thought we were going to go through a construction assessment and turned out to be the beginning of a whole new rebuild. Our community pulled together make Claire’s house a home again. These are one of those beautiful reminders of why we live here. It’s the beautiful natural surroundings that bring you here and the beautiful people surrounding you that make you stay.
The following photos document the rebuild process which began last June and returned Claire to her “new” home by early August. For every person we help return home, we get introduced to two more. As people continue to pick up the pieces we hear stories of unreliable contractors, failed programs and unkept promises.
New roof completed!
Rain damage to the kitchen in "Claire's" home
Work complete. Case management walk thru day!
"Claire" and Disaster Case Manager - new kitchen!
Living room is now safe and dry!
Uncovering families still in great need help.