In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, dozens of recovery groups were on the ground helping survivors get the relief and recovery assistance they needed to rebuild homes and restore their lives. Nearly five years after the storm, there remain four recovery groups with resources and funding to help the estimated three thousand homeowners who have not completed their recovery.
Working together makes sense, as each recovery group brings different skills and resources to the table. A Future With Hope, SBP, Inc. (formerly St. Bernards Project) and the Affordable Housing Alliance (AHA) working with the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey work together as the Nonprofit Builders Group to help homeowners as far south as Cape May and as far north as Middlesex County.
The Robinhood Foundation has recognized the extraordinary commitment and cooperation of these organizations with a new grant to provide funding for an additional 55 families in need. Twice a month, representatives from these four nonprofit organizations meet to discuss ways to get another family back home.
“One of the single largest needs after a catastrophic storm like Sandy is secure housing,” said Bobbie Ridgely, Executive Director of A Future With Hope. “Our organization was started by The Greater New Jersey United Methodist Church for the purpose of repairing and rebuilding homes. We remain committed to that purpose because it’s what United Methodists do. When people hurt, we help.”
There are any number of reasons that the process for those who have not recovered has been difficult. Some have faced discrepancies with flood insurance companies. Some have struggled with state grant funding. Others have experienced contractor fraud. Together the Nonprofit Builders Group provides disaster case management, professional and volunteer labor to rehab or rebuild homes, specialized counselling to assist with financial needs and more.
The collective was recognized as the 2017 Innovative Program/Partnership of the year by The New Jersey Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NJVOAD) Board for exceptional innovation and ingenuity through the development and implementation of a partnership that provides long-term solutions to communities.
“This is our mission, we help families find and keep the housing they can afford,” said Donna Blaze, CEO of the AHA. “We want our families back home in healthy neighborhoods in homes they can sustain. That is just what we do.”
At this stage of the recovery effort, homeowners in need of assistance are the most vulnerable. They have been living in unsafe or unfinished houses without heat or other utilities. They have been paying rent for an apartment for years while still maintaining their mortgage. They have spent their savings and borrowed against their future to replace a home that was owned, insured and loved before the storm.
Home owner cases are individually reviewed, whether it’s the need for a new porch in order to get the final Certificate of Occupancy, an assessment of shoddy workmanship from an unscrupulous contractor, or funding a financial the gap. Accepted cases are sponsored by one of the participating agencies within the collective.
Kevin McGee, Executive Director of SBP said, “We’re committed to recovering our community one family at a time because that is what it’s going to take to put Sandy behind us.”