Rapid rehousing challenge underway for flood victims
Already in an affordable housing crisis, Haywood County agencies are now confronted with trying to find emergency housing for families displaced by the devastating floods on Aug. 17.
Mountain Projects has been meeting with flood victims in temporary housing, matching them with available resources to put them in safe, dry, clean homes. Just a week after the flood, there were more than 30 households that had applied for services, and hundreds more who were impacted by the flooding and eligible for assistance.
As of Tuesday morning, Mountain Projects Executive Director Patsy Davis said enough funding had been secured to rehab 27 houses. Individuals, churches and other organizations have all stepped up to cover the costs.
“Our priority is to put a roof over people’s heads. That’s point one. Give people the security of having a roof over their heads so they can start to rebuild their lives,” said Davis. “The rapid rehabilitation partnership is one of the most encouraging options we have because if the house meets the criteria, we can do the rehousing in a couple of weeks.”
The county has contracted with N.C. Baptist Builders to complete the rehab projects. The missionary team has extensive experience with rapid rebuilding following a natural disaster, which is why they can complete projects so quickly. Not all houses will meet the criteria, but at this point, any homes that can be saved should be saved due to the county’s housing shortage.
“With the housing crunch, at least this gives people some hope that they can return to their homes,” Davis said. “I won’t say I know what it feels like to lose a home, but I know housing is the key to starting the recovery process.”
Davis is thrilled to have enough funds for 27 homes to be repaired, but she also knows more is needed. While the number of homes lost during the flood is estimated to be 500 or more, the goals is to raise enough money to be able to do more than 100 rehab home projects. The Baptist Builders estimate that the average cost per home will be around $17,500.
For those who lost homes that are beyond repair or that washed down the Pigeon River, Mountain Projects is scrambling to offer Section 8 vouchers and providing people with assistance with paying the first month’s rent and security deposits. Finding any available housing units has been a challenge.
The nonprofit is seeking homeowners who can make homes available to flood victims. Putting a roof over someone’s head is perhaps the most stabilizing act for disaster victims. Without a home, victims don’t have anywhere to put donated items and don’t have a home base from which to conduct their lives.
“We’ve spent a lot of time calling everyone we know and begging people. Some people have added units to our program that haven’t worked with us before so that’s helpful, but it’s not the quantity we need,” Davis said.
It’s a big ask of a homeowner, especially those who have never worked with Mountain Projects before, and because part of the funding is drawn from the Section 8 program.
“In this case, our relief isn’t income-based, recipients come from all walks of life,” said Davis. “Some of the victims we help will be Section 8 recipients. Unfortunately, there’s a stigma around Section 8 vouchers — that these renters cause problems for homeowners. A tiny fraction do, but that small segment impacts the reputation of a strong program that helps a lot of people.”
Mountain Projects conducts a background check on all Section 8 recipients and interested landlords may also screen applicants to ensure they are comfortable with the choice of tenant.
Currently there are still about 80 people being housed temporarily at Lake Junaluska while many others are living with friends or family while they wait for a more permanent location. As time goes on, more people are going to be eager to return home or to find a new one.
For those who want to help but can’t afford a full housing sponsorship, Davis encourages them to donate with the fund set up through United Way of Haywood County. One hundred percent of funds that go into that account will be used for flood victims. To donate, visit www.uwhaywood.org.
How to help
Mountain Projects is requesting the community’s assistance with two things:
2. If you are able to make a financial donation to cover rental deposits for flood victims, give to Mountain Projects’ partner, the United Way of Haywood County, here. (https://www.uwhaywood.org/civicrm/contribute/transact?reset=1&id=2)
Mountain Projects is a Community Action Agency serving Haywood and Jackson Counties. MountainProjects.org.
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