The growing pains of organization have nearly been completed and a recent survey demonstrated the need.
Now, the hard slog begins for the Gulf County Citizens Long-Term Recovery Committee.
The focus of that slog is the most vulnerable of the county and connecting those folks to the assets that will help them rebuild.
“This is about individual recovery and working with families to rebuild and recover,” said Vicki Abrams, chairwoman of the Recovery Committee. “We are about the recovery of our most needy and vulnerable population.
“It is a marathon, not a sprint.”
In addition to filing for non-profit status and all that entails, the committee has also received some initial grant funding for basic operations and is pursuing additional funding for specific uses.
One is to hire an executive director to ensure proper coordination among volunteers and that committees are operating on stated goals.
There is also a case management component to prioritize needs and connecting those needs to support.
There is also a need for a construction coordinator to coordinate and identify costs for projects and oversee projects to ensure positive outcomes.
The Committee is pursuing funding through Volunteer Florida.
In addition to helping to identify physical needs and connecting them to adequate support, there is also an important spiritual, emotional, mental/behavioral health component to recovery.
For example, Stars of Hope recently conducted a mental health program with children in the city of Port St. Joe’s summer program.
Several members of the Committee have completed mental health first aid training.
For the Committee, Abrams, the next major steps include revisiting some of the initial steps.
“The biggest thing we have to do is revisit our goals and objectives we outlined in our first couple of meetings and establish new time frames,” Abrams said.
And, as the Committee works to help rebuild families, toss a spotlight on those rebuilds.
“We want to make sure we are celebrating as families rebuild,” Abrams said.
The task ahead was laid out during a recent survey by faith-based non-profit World Renew, which put a price tag of over $9 million to the unmet needs of the county’s most vulnerable populations.
“Your work has just begun,” said Bruce de boer of World Renew. “It really is a long-term process. It takes a lot of determination to see it through.”
World Renew spent two weeks in the community in April, with sites in Port St. Joe and Wewahitchka; they also made 10 on-site visits.
The survey revealed 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.
The survey volunteers also noted the number of properties which have simply been abandoned by owners and/or renters.
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.
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, de boer said.
Represented at a lower percentage than typical, he added, were single-parent households (9.7 percent).
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.