Group housing is needed for UWSC’s Rebuild United effort

Several religious organizations have assisted in recovery efforts since Hurricane Ida.

A group of 16 people who come to St. Charles Parish and rebuild their homes damaged by Hurricane Ida for free have only one thing standing in their way – a place to stay for them.

Kacy Kernan, Director of Community Impact at United Way St. Charles, is leading the task of finding a suitable housing solution for the eager volunteers.

“Rebuild United is a United Way of St. Charles-led initiative to help residents of the St. Charles community who were impacted by Hurricane Ida,” she said. “All funds raised for Rebuild United will be managed by the St. Charles Parish Long Term Recovery Group with no administrative costs.”

Kernan said UWSC uses disaster response management and volunteer work groups to support families and help them get back into their homes.

“We work in partnership with the St. Charles Parish Long Term Recovery Group, Catholic charities, Nechama – Jewish Response to Disaster, IOCC Disaster Response, World Renew and the St. Charles Parish Department of Community Services,” she said. “I’m looking for either a very large house that sleeps eight couples or two houses next to each other. We could also build multiple units in one building or an open building that the volunteers could temporarily divide into private areas. We are very open minded. You just need access to water and a kitchen.”

Kernan said the group hoping to come to the area and help are married couples.

“These are retired skilled workers,” she said. “They’ve done these kinds of things for a living and now they just want to give something back.”

The volume and quality of work these workers can produce is amazing, Kernan said.

“In the eight months that they are here, they can realize 30 complete houses or 80 to 100 sub-projects,” she said. “Their value for an eight-month period is approximately $1 million.”

UWSC has put months of work into this recovery initiative in partnership with the St. Charles Parish Long Term Recovery Group and Rebuild United. They first invited World Renew Disaster Response to the community after the storm to assess residents’ ongoing needs.

“Currently, more than 1,500 families remain in trailers provided by FEMA or IDA Sheltering, and more than 300 families have already been prescreened with documented needs that are not covered by FEMA or their insurance,” Kernan said. “As a community, we implemented our own disaster case management program in September.”

Disaster case managers worked with the client, FEMA, and insurance providers to ensure residents had exhausted all appeals and true unmet needs were identified. Once DCM was finalized, the case went to the St Charles Parish Long Term Recovery Group Board for approval. The St. Charles Parish Long Term Recovery Group identified the priorities for assisting those on low incomes, the elderly and/or disabled, single-parent households and veterans.

Once approved, the client proceeded to the rebuild phase of the program.

“Not all cases are rebuilt through our program,” Kernan said. “Some smaller cases may be assigned to local volunteer groups to help with very small tasks, or the client may be approved for a small one

Amount of financial support to complete their home through their existing contractor. Each case is different based on the resources already invested in the reconstruction and the resources available to the family we are working with.”

Kernan said cases that were approved for reconstruction were turned over to a site manager.

“We have a part-time site manager who makes sure all permits, licenses and supplies are obtained,” she said. “He also works with the volunteers to assign jobs and oversees all remodels through to completion.”

To contact Kernan about a possible housing solution, email [email protected]

About Ellen Lewandowski

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