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Disaster assistance extended for Isaac’s impact

Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans Hurricane Isaac Disaster Case Management Program (HIDCMP) has received approval for an extension through Oct. 31 to continue assisting Louisiana families with unmet housing needs due to Hurricane Isaac in 2012.

“The need in the state is so great, and we showed evidence that these block grant programs were being kicked off and we could help our clients by providing assistance with applications,” said Toni Wright, project director, explaining the need for the extension.

The new funding streams through Disaster Community Development Block Grants (D-CDBG) and/or community block grants are being given to the most affected parishes in the state, Wright said. In July, $12 million in home repair and rehabilitation monies became available for Plaquemines Parish residents through the Isaac CDBG home repair program called Plaquemines Housing Assistance Program.

More funds coming
By the end of September, Jefferson Parish will have $9 million in home rehabilitation money, and St. John the Baptist Parish will receive even more, $31 million in Isaac recovery funds, Wright said.

The Catholic Charities team preliminarily has identified eligible families in each of these areas.

Agencies in other affected parishes in the state are trying to locate resources to help clients access home-repair programs, not community block grant programs, she said.

“Up until now, we were helping clients go through long-term recovery organizations (a collaboration of nonprofits) that came together providing assistance to families,” Wright said.

When FEMA decided to award money to Louisiana for Isaac recovery in early 2013, Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans was named the lead agency. Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans handled the civil parishes within the archdiocese and coordinated case management services with Catholic Charities Baton Rouge, Terrebonne Readiness and Assistance Coalition (TRAC) in Lafourche, Terrebonne and St. Mary parishes and Lutheran Social Service Disaster Response (LSSDR) in St. Tammany and Washington parishes to assist families affected by the storm in other areas of the state.

Since the start of the disaster case management program in March 2013, Wright said $2.3 million in donated funds, building materials and volunteer labor has been used to help 400 families get back into their homes. That’s an average of $5,550-$5,700 spent per family, depending on the damage.

Money put to good use
“Safe, sanitary housing breeds a lot of health and well-being,” Wright said.

With no permanent funding stream to help people, Wright said the Hurricane Isaac Disaster Case Management Program stayed alive through May 2014 through the generosity of nonprofits, volunteer labor, the American Red Cross and “locally donated dollars leveraged with volunteer labor.”

“We managed the project very well,” she said. “All four nonprofit agencies have been very good stewards of these resources ... so monies were still available.”

The new funding came just in time, since 1,100 more families in 26 Louisiana parishes identified as having Isaac-related damage through the Disaster Case Management Program still need assistance.

Wright said she found that most of the families needing help were stable and paid their bills before the storm damaged their home and, in some cases, eliminated their jobs.

“People became homeless due to the impact of the storm,” she said, giving one example of a single mother who lost her home and job, had her children taken from her and then worked her way back one issue at a time through the assistance of Hurricane Isaac Disaster Case Management Program.

Wright said, traditionally, the families that Disaster Case Management Program serves are those that need assistance navigating federal funding streams to become eligible for available services.

“It is a blessing that we are here right now and actively assisting clients to coordinate all documents to get applications thoroughly completed,” she said.

Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans is able to provide holistic home repair and case management to families affected by Hurricane Isaac. If other needs are evident besides home repair, “we help support them so they recover fully,” Wright said. “We hope we help a family recover back to self sufficiency as they were prior to the storm.”

Wright said with this new funding stream available, state agencies are trying to build bridges with the nonprofits through the disaster case management program to establish a model for future disasters. This will enable money to be more easily accessed by clients of Disaster Case Management Programs for long-term recovery in the future.

“The (state) Office of Community Development Disaster Recovery Unit is aware of the needs of the people and is trying to make it work and overcome obstacles that have traditionally sat in our way,” Wright said.

Case managers remain in the field helping clients at St. Patrick Church in Port Sulphur, Assumption Church in Braithwaite, St. Anthony Church in Lafitte and the St. John (civil) Parish Volunteer Reception Center at New Wine Church in LaPlace. Inquiries can be made to 310-8755.

Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarion

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