The St. Johns Housing Partnership, with grant support, has been helping people untangle the knots in the complex process of Hurricane Matthew recovery.
As part of the work, officials have also seen issues they want people to be aware of, and officials are urging people to apply for federal assistance before the deadline next week.
The housing partnership is using a $25,000 grant from the First Coast Relief Fund to have employees look at property damage and guide people through recovery, said United Way of St. Johns County Executive Director Melissa Nelson. The First Coast Relief Fund, which has funded other grants, is a collaborative effort between multiple agencies such as the United Way, she said.
One person in the midst of recovery is Clare Norris, a St. Augustine resident who is planning to rebuild her home, which Hurricane Matthew flooded. She’s said there’s too much wrong with her home to bring it up to code.
“I lost everything, not just the house, but the contents,” Norris said.
She has lived there for more than 20 years, and the housing partnership had already helped her make repairs to her property before the storm.
Now the organization is trying to help her move forward after her loss, she said.
“I really just want to go home,” she said.
Judas Martinez has also been working with the St. Johns Housing Partnership.
Through help from her attorney and housing partnership officials and volunteers, Martinez has been able to begin recovering.
The hurricane came when she was going through major medical treatment, she said. She evacuated during the storm, and when she returned she found her St. Johns County home damaged by trees and water. The housing partnership helped her temporarily repair the home and get housing assistance to go elsewhere, she said.
The housing partnership has also helped her work with FEMA.
“I would’ve given up without them,” she said.
Rebuilding homes and lives has been a difficult process for people affected by the hurricane, and confusion surrounding getting federal assistance has made matters worse for some.
Susan Giddens, project manager for the housing partnership, has been visiting damaged homes and helping people with recovery. She indicated some people are giving up too soon over payments from insurance providers or after getting denied by FEMA, though an initial denial is commonly part of the process for getting FEMA aid.
Typically the agency will list in the denial notice what documents are needed, and people could get assistance after filing an appeal, officials have said.
“People are getting these letters and are saying, ‘Well, [that’s] it,’” she said.
The deadline is Friday for residents and businesses to apply for FEMA assistance for Hurricane Matthew damage, according to a Record report.
Also, Bill Lazar, executive director of the housing partnership, indicated some people are paying too much for repairs, not counting the full cost of repairing or rebuilding, or, in some cases, are wasting time or money on work that’s not done properly.
Lazar said the housing partnership is trying to get as many homes back to normal as possible, or at least get them on the path toward recovery, before properties turn into long-term substandard housing.
“Part of what we’re really trying to do is figure out where [people] are and what’s it going to take to get them whole again,” he said.
People who would like help from the St. Johns Housing Partnership can call 824-0902.