Tuesday, September 6, 2016, Baton Rouge
Deacon Bob Bridwell, from St. Stephen the First Martyr Church in Sanford, is assisting flood victims in Louisiana as a volunteer. Here he shares his experiences.
East Baton Rouge Parish. Tuesday I was assigned another DRC (disaster recovery center) and a new team. Catholic Charities is still in the process of hiring case workers and getting them trained, so there is quite a lot of assignment shifting. We went to the New Hope Center, which is typically used for addiction recovery but is now serving flood recovery. In any case the name seems appropriate.
This is one of the busiest DRCs in the area. Already they’ve seen over 3,000 people and processed applications for assistance. At a typical DRC, there would be FEMA disaster housing assistance, which would result in a housing inspection to determine the level of damage. This is the principle determining factor in how much financial assistance might be available. Then there is temporary housing assistance (hotels, etc.), hazard mitigation and clean-up assistance, HUD permanent housing assistance, crisis intervention and SBA loan assistance. In this center, the East Baton Rouge parish people had already been applying for FEMA assistance and were returning for SBA loans to help rebuild beyond what FEMA offers. Catholic Charities is there to bridge into the nonprofit community in assistance categories such as senior citizens, mental and emotional assistance, homeless referrals, clothing and household goods, disability assistance. Each applicant will be assigned a case manager who serves to meet needs into the long term of recovery. I am also trying to offer crisis counseling and prayer where appropriate.
Each place I’ve been has different needs and different demographics. In one location I saw a lot of Vietnamese. The first shelter we worked had significant numbers of elderly. New Hope appeared to be mostly working parents. The shelter downtown at the River Center is reported to have many homeless and other people with few family connections. It appears that there cannot be a one-size fits all approach to the different locations. But care compassion does seem to be a universal need and is usually eagerly received.
Read previous entries: