St. John,USVI - Long Term Recovery: Home Construct

by St. John Community Foundation
St. John,USVI - Long Term Recovery: Home Construct
St. John,USVI - Long Term Recovery: Home Construct
St. John,USVI - Long Term Recovery: Home Construct
St. John,USVI - Long Term Recovery: Home Construct
St. John,USVI - Long Term Recovery: Home Construct
St. John,USVI - Long Term Recovery: Home Construct
St. John,USVI - Long Term Recovery: Home Construct
St. John,USVI - Long Term Recovery: Home Construct
Senior home complete rebuild in Grunwald St. John
Senior home complete rebuild in Grunwald St. John

Construction has resumed on our housing project although at a different pace under restrictions of the pandemic.   The territory of the Virgin Islands has experienced 2  lockdowns due ot the COVID Pandemic and is headed into a third.This has resulted in delays in logistisc and permitingg. Permitting office is now open only 2 days a week since March and has put extra delays on an already lenghty process.

We are wrapping up a current project with a Senior called JN.  JN had permits in place prior to the Long Term Recovery getting involved but she needed further assistance than what was provided by FEMA post storm.   During the permitting process she discovered her home was never built in the correct spot to begin with and was actually built into where the road was supposed to be.   JN had to start from scratch but she is a very resilient individual herself and did not give up.  Working with the Long Term Recovery Team she had initated construction and began with the pouring of a concrete cistern and slab.   The community came together and donated 4 pallets of Concrete Block to construct the walls.   Assistance from individuals like yourselves helped the Long Term Recovery Team finish with the labor to build the walls, install windows and doors and pour a strong hurricane proof concrete roof for her to live in.  The contractors are waiting on the windows and doors to arrive and we are hoping she will be in her new home by Christmas.

Work has slowed down however the amount of homes and people in need has not changed.  The St. John Community Foundation's DIsaster Case management has identified 31 more homes that will not be repaired under any government program.  Some of these individuals have had to move on and have left their homes and the islands behind and some are still living in tents.

FEMA Hazard Mitigation Programs will provide some releift for these vulnerable seniors but limitation within the grant will not be able to entirely restore the properties or create some quality of life improvement for those that have already been through so much.   With your generous donation we can work with the community to make these damaged houses a home again.

Grunwald Home interior
Grunwald Home interior
Still over 30 displaced seniors on island.
Still over 30 displaced seniors on island.
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72 year old accomplished this with her own hands!
72 year old accomplished this with her own hands!

Life under the 'New Normal' is anything but normal on a small island of around 4000 people.  The impact of this global pandemic after being hit by two cat 5 hurricanes has greatly affected our community in all fronts of recovery including the economic and social.

The majority of the homes we are working on belong to Seniors who are particulary vulnerable to COVID-19.  To prevent putting these individuals at additional  risk construction has been put on hold during the lock down period.  As Puerto Rico is still under curfew shipments of building supplies have been impacted severly.  

 At this point we are just beginning the process of restarting construction.   We have 2 homes that were under construction when the 'stay at home' order was initiated in the Virgin Islands. Three more homes were in the pre-planning phases and have also suffered set backs as permitting offices have also reduced hours.  

As we move forward under the "new normal"  contractors are learning how to spread out their crews, offer portable handwashing stations on the jobsite and provding employees with masks.  Getting back to work has had more of an impact on our beneficiaries mental well being as we are opening up our island but heading into another hurricane season.

One senior ( aged 72 ) was so adamant about getting her home rebuilt she was tying rebar for her own foundation.   She managed to get her foundation started before running out of assistance from the federal government.   Through various donations we are working to get her a safe place built in time before hurricane season really begins to ramp up.  

It is difficult time for all of us but as a community we will prevail.

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Construction underway with beautiful view of Jost!
Construction underway with beautiful view of Jost!

A new year for the Resilient Housing Initiative (RHI) brings new challenges.   Two years and this as a collegue from Love City Strong, one of our partners puts it - is the longest running rebuild program in the territory.   To date the RHI Program has fixed or completely rebuilt 31 homes.  2 Homes are currently under construction and with have 9 more homes in the planning process.  

The programs has been an incredile success but not without facing many challenges.  The 9 homes in the planning process are some of our most difficult ones in terms of Disaster Case Management and Construction.   

Challenges include probate and deed issues with obtaining the proper building permits.  Most of these properties were passed down to family members generation to generation.  No one every questioned them if they owned their homes because they always lived there and everyone knew it.   Putting estates in probate is just something that was never considered and most of these families have little to no money to make ends meet make it happen.  One of our Disaster Case Managers received a deed written in Danish!  These issues ad to the all ready lengthy rebuild process.   

In terms of construction many of these nine homes are complete rebuilds - from the ground up. Some of these families have been renting homes since the storm and some have been living in tents and make shift 'shacks' to make ends meet.  Pulling together resources is what as St. Johnians we do best.  Funds from generous donors including an incredible 'in-kind' donation of shipping container homes give these families hope for their future.

The St. John Long Term Recovery Group is determined to seeing everyone get the help they need.  We have started a small jobs construction program to step in after the big rebuild programs to address safety and quality of life issues for seniors and disadvantaged members of our community.  With your help we can make a difference on St. John.

Case Manager meets with a beneficiary of RHI
Case Manager meets with a beneficiary of RHI
Still more to help -  living in tents 2 years on
Still more to help - living in tents 2 years on
Completed rebuilding this Coral Bay Duplex Home
Completed rebuilding this Coral Bay Duplex Home
Deed and estate probate issues pose a challenge
Deed and estate probate issues pose a challenge
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Project currently underway near Coral Bay, St John
Project currently underway near Coral Bay, St John

 Our partnership within the Resilient Housing Initiative continues to work on rebuilding homes for Seniors and those economically challenged within our community.    With 25 homes completed to date we are more than halfway to our goal of 42 homes.  We have 17 more homes under construction with 8 of those in the pre-planning / permitting stages.   

As the program continues to gain momentum our Disaster Case Management team sees new faces coming out from our community.  These individuals that have suffered through the storm and also suffered through the heart ache of trying to pick up the pieces themselves.   Stories of how difficult it is for Seniors to navigate federal aid programs and work with local contractors are plenty and we hear some stories of those that just give up trying.   Our Disaster Case Management team is constantly working to help fill the gaps with the unmet needs and assist our community with the referral services to help best.

This includes an emergency re-tarping program.  Our Disaster Case Management team in conjunction with the St. John - Long Term Recovery Group who supplied materials and  Love For Love City who brought in the labor - was able to get priority homes re-tarped for this years hurricane / rainy season.   This greatly helped relieve the anxiety of the seniors in our community, but we were not able to get to all of the homes.   There is still a great many people in our community that need your help!

We can not do this without your support!  

 

The STJ-LTRG assisted in getting homes retarped.
The STJ-LTRG assisted in getting homes retarped.
Building back stronger for the future!
Building back stronger for the future!
New Roof is on and meets new FEMA specs.
New Roof is on and meets new FEMA specs.
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New tarp day turned into let's just get it done!
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!
New roof completed!
Rain damage to the kitchen in "Claire's" home
Rain damage to the kitchen in "Claire's" home
Work complete.  Case management walk thru day!
Work complete. Case management walk thru day!
"Claire" and Disaster Case Manager - new kitchen!
"Claire" and Disaster Case Manager - new kitchen!
Living room is now safe and dry!
Living room is now safe and dry!
Uncovering families still in great need help.
Uncovering families still in great need help.
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Organization Information

St. John Community Foundation

Location: St. John, USVI, usa - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Celia Kalousek
Executive Director
St. John, USVI, usa United States
$480,192 raised of $1,000,000 goal
 
114 donations
$519,808 to go
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