In March of 2016, most of the parishes in North and South Louisiana were slammed with up to 11 inches of rain, causing rivers to swell and thousands of homes to flood.
As the state moved forward to recover from the disaster, in August of this year, much of South Louisiana received record amounts of rain in two days—an estimated six TRILLION gallons of water. The swollen bodies of water topped their banks once again, and some homeowners flooded for the second time in six months.
The statistics from the Floods of 2016 are staggering. An estimated 90 percent of the homes in the Denham Springs area flooded. There are 60,000 FEMA applicants in East Baton Rouge parish, alone.
Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey wonders what Louisiana’s Annual Conference will look like following this event. “The reality is we have churches in areas of great impact that are wondering if their people will come back. We know after Hurricane Katrina some people never returned to New Orleans. I’m praying that won’t happen with this event, but that is why it’s critical for us to provide a sense of place and get folks back home.”
The devastation is hard to imagine. According to Debra T. Davis, Ph.D., who is serving the Louisiana Conference as the new Disaster Response Director, the Conference is in the recovery for the “long haul.” “It is not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” said Davis, who is responsible for the coordination of the overall response to the spring floods and the August 2016 floods that devastated Louisiana.
According to Habitat for Humanity, it takes an average of $30,000 to refurbish a 1,500 square foot home that took on between 2-3 feet of water.
Although many Louisiana homeowners are progressing in restoring their properties, there are a large group of Louisianians who will need substantial help getting back into their homes. Case management comes will play a large role when determining who is eligible to apply for assistance. Whether or not a homeowner had flood insurance; has received money from FEMA; has been a good steward of the monies received (spent the funds on home repair); or has other resources all come into play when choosing clients to help. “In addition, if you are disabled, elderly, have a chronic illness or in a lower income bracket, you move higher on the list of folks selected to help. We truly will be focusing on helping ‘the least, the last and the lost.’”
Currently, the Louisiana Conference Disaster Response efforts is working with funds obtained through United Methodist Committee on Relief grants and donations from individuals, churches and other United Methodist conferences. In addressing the devastation caused by the spring floods, the response is working with $330,000 from UMCOR and more than $72,000 collected during offerings and donations through the Louisiana Conference. “We are targeting parts of North and South Louisiana.
The August floods, which impacted more homes, will be addressed with a budget that combines $510,000 from UMCOR and more than $537,000 donated by conferences, individuals and churches.
More funds will be needed to complete this vital response effort.
“The United Methodist Foundation of Louisiana has graciously provided funding for the hiring of Lisa Gibbs, an experienced grant writer. Some of the grants Lisa has worked on will help to pay for much needed supplies. One grant will hopefully provide a 15-passenger van to use in the rebuilding process,” said Davis.
Funding is needed to not only complete the task but to continue and address the needs of flood survivors in the months and years ahead. With that said, the Louisiana Conference Disaster Response is counting on the continued generosity of others.
If you feel compelled to help the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church, please visit our web site: www.LouisianaDisasterResponse.com