Hurricane Gustav inflicted little damage on New Orleans but Louisiana's southern parishes and bayous were hard hit. Early estimates suggest damage at around $10 billion, a number that will likely flux as evacuees return.
Gustav served as another reminder of the fragile nature of Hurricane Katrina recovery in Mississippi. Gov. Hayley Barbour has asked President Bush to declare 16 Mississippi counties disaster areas, after a storm surge as high as 11 feet in some areas damaged homes and businesses.
As flood waters recede, authorities are increasingly able to assess damage, and needs are already becoming clear. In the rural southern parishes of Louisiana, sustainable livelihoods, housing and environmental damage were chronic problems even before Hurricane Gustav. Louisiana's bayou communities have been struggling to recover since Hurricane Katrina, an effort complicated and hampered by Hurricane Gustav.
The first Lift House under construction in Chauvin, La.
Church World Service has invested considerable resources in propagating long-term recovery capacity along the U.S. Gulf Coast. The investment paid off in the form of preparedness for this storm. However, as these local groups begin to wrestle with recovering from Hurricane Gustav on top of the work already underway to rebuild following Hurricane Katrina, CWS is ready to provide material resources and project development support.
CWS will provide kits and CWS Blankets to partners as needs are determined.
CWS joins Houma, La.-based Terrebonne Readiness Assistance Coalition (TRAC) in seeking support to build a community of 25 Lift Houses.
Following Hurricane Katrina, CWS partnered with TRAC to help build five of the first-ever Louisiana Lift Houses, a sustainable housing solution for living on coastal land. Built for economy, ecology and to withstand hurricane-force winds, the Lift Houses handily survived the real-world test of Hurricane Gustav.
Five components frame this project:
1) Lift house beneficiaries will be selected using case management strategies already in place by TRAC. The funding structure is a split mortgage, with each homeowner responsible for covering as much as half the home's $145,000 cost. TRAC's Lift House Community Fund will cover the balance, and each beneficiary will be required to perform sweat equity (if able) or public service. Local banks around Houma are interested in providing financing assistance to potential beneficiaries as part of the project.
2) The current Lift House design will be re-evaluated to enhance its green building elements, utilizing such approaches as tank-less hot water systems, radiation barriers, sustainable materials and possibly supplemental solar power. Design will be further enhanced to better accommodate those with mobility issues , for instance, the inclusion of special elevators, wider passageways and other adjustments.
3) CWS and TRAC will engage the building trades program of L.E. Fletcher Technical Community College as a way to educate contractors on sustainable housing. The goal is to use Lift House construction as a teaching model, reaching out to those who are developing job skills and training for future employment.
4) CWS will reach out to its network of more than 30 long-term recovery groups along the Gulf Coast to facilitate broadening the Lift House concept to other coastal areas, with a particular emphasis on coastal Mississippi.
5) CWS will facilitate recruitment of volunteer labor through its denominational connections. TRAC has broad capacity to handle volunteer groups from traveling out of state.
CWS and TRAC will engage other partners in completing this sustainable housing project. The CWS portion of the project is as follows:
CWS share per home: $37,000 x 25 Lift Houses = $925,000
Training program for other recovery organizations = $30,000
Staff travel, monitoring and administration costs = $25,000
Material resources = $20,000
TOTAL: $1 Million
Completion date of the project depends on the procurement of funds and the community's progress in recovery.
This appeal will be expanded to accommodate responses to future hurricanes during the 2008 Atlantic Hurricane Season.
Contributions to support this CWS work can be made online, by calling 1-800-297-1516; or by mail to Church World Service, 28606 Phillips Street, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515.
Lesley Crosson, CWS/New York, 212-870-2676; firstname.lastname@example.org
Jan Dragin, 781-925-1526; email@example.com