Defining Hurricane Michael has seemed like a constant swirl of numbers.
Few as sobering as the near-$10 million price tag attached to meeting the remaining storm related needs among the community’s most vulnerable citizens.
Those folks on low or fixed incomes, the elderly, the disabled, in effect those most at risk of falling through any safety net.
After a two week survey, including in-home visits, by faith-based non-profit World Renew, the ones in the green shirts, the vulnerable folks, six months after Michael, have unmet needs that are estimated at $9.4 million.
The estimate is merely an estimate, emphasized Bruce de boer of World Renew.
Those needs spanned a spectrum, from needing a job or removal of dangerous trees to replacement of lost walls, windows and roofs.
The World Renew group of 17 volunteers spent two weeks in the community earlier this month, with sites in Port St. Joe and Wewahitchka; they also made 10 on-site visits.
The information gathered will be used by the Citizens of Gulf County Recovery Team to prioritize and coordinate future efforts while providing something of a baseline of the needs and costs that still exist in the community.
“We knew this information would reveal a lot of things about this community,” said Vicki Abrams, chairwoman for the recovery committee.
One item revealed in the survey, de boer noted, was a high rate (17.2 percent) of impacted renters, which complicated the survey as many did not or would not involve landlords in discussions about costs of repair.
“We had many who feared they would be evicted,” de boer said.
The survey volunteers also noted the number of properties which have simply been abandoned by owners and/or renters.
Surveys and responses were more intensive in some areas such as White City, Highland View and the neighborhood of North Port St. Joe, but de boer said, “We have covered most of the populated areas in Gulf County.”
The number of surveyed households was 180; however, that represented just 3.4 percent of the 5,340 residents of the county registered with FEMA.
“That is a bit low,” said Christine de boer, Bruce’s wife; the couple, from Eastern Canada, led the survey effort.
Of those households, 106 were in Port St. Joe and 39 in Wewahitchka.
The elderly (46 percent), disabled (27 percent) and veterans (15 percent) were the most represented demographic and all at higher percentages than typical, Bruce de boer said.
Represented at a lower percentage than typical, he added, were single-parent households (9.7 percent).
For those households surveyed, and to emphasize the survey’s focus was on the community’s most vulnerable citizens, recovery costs were estimated in several categories for an overall total north of $9 million.
And survey results broke down those costs within categories such as structure, construction needs, personal needs, appliances and furniture.
Burrowing deeper into one category, furniture, the survey cited needs for beds, couches, tables, chairs, TV and window AC; appliance needs including central AC, washer, stove, freezer, refrigerator.
The World Renew volunteers submitted their report last week to the recovery committee, including original survey materials.
The materials included a scale of assessment level of need in each category as well as an overall summary.
“Your work has just begun,” Bruce de boer said last week. “It really is a long-term process. It takes a lot of determination to see it through.”