Group housing needed for UWSC’s Rebuild United efforts

Several faith-based organizations have contributed to recovery efforts since Hurricane Ida.

There’s only one thing that stands in the way of a group of 16 people coming to St. Charles Parish and rebuilding homes damaged by Hurricane Ida for free: a place where they can stay.

Kacy Kernan, Community Impact Director for United Way St. Charles, is leading the charge to find a suitable housing solution for the enthusiastic volunteers.

“Rebuild United is an initiative led by United Way of St. Charles to help residents of St. Charles Parish who were impacted by Hurricane Ida,” she said. “All funds raised for Rebuild United are managed without administrative fees by the St. Charles Parish Long Term Recovery Group.”

Kernan said the UWSC uses disaster management and volunteer worker groups to provide support to families and help them return home.

“We partner with the St. Charles Parish Long Term Recovery Group, Catholic Charities, Nechama – Jewish Response to Disaster, IOCC Disaster Response, World Renew and St. Charles Parish Department of Community Services, she said. “I am looking for either a very large house that can accommodate eight couples, or two houses close to each other. We could also do multiple units in a building or an open building that volunteers could temporarily separate into private areas. We are very open-minded. They just need access to water and a kitchen.

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

“They are retired, skilled workers,” she said. “They’ve done this stuff as a career and now just want to give back.”

The volume and quality of work these workers are able to produce, Kernan said, is incredible.

“In the eight months that they are here, they will be able to do 30 houses in total or 80 to 100 partial projects,” she said. “Their value for an eight-month period is around $1 million.”

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

“There are currently over 1,500 families still in trailers provided by FEMA or IDA Sheltering and over 300 families already pre-screened with documented needs that will not be met by FEMA or their insurance,” Kernan said. “As a community, we set up our own disaster management program in September.”

Disaster managers have worked with the client, FEMA and insurers to ensure residents have exhausted all remedies and the true unmet need is determined. After the DCM was completed, the case was presented to the St Charles Parish Long Term Recovery Group Board for approval. The St. Charles Parish Long Term Recovery Group has prioritized low income, elderly and/or disabled, single parent families and veterans for assistance.

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

“Not every case will be reconstructed through our program,” Kernan said. “Some smaller cases may be referred to local volunteer groups for help with very small jobs or the client may be approved for a small

amount of financial assistance to complete their home through their current contractor. Each case is different depending on the resources that have already been invested in the reconstruction and the resources available to the family we are working with.

Kernan said cases approved to be rebuilt were turned over to a construction manager.

“We have a part-time construction manager working to ensure all permits, licenses and supplies are acquired,” she said. “He also works with volunteers to assign tasks and oversees all rebuilds through to completion.”

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

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