LSS Disaster Services Helps Rebuild Homes and Hope
When a natural disaster rips through a neighborhood or town, it tears apart the world of those who live there. Floodwaters rise, filling homes with water and muck, and they destroy more than possessions; they can also destroy hope. That’s where our Project Recovery program comes in.
In June 2008, disaster didn’t just strike one town, but 30 counties in Wisconsin. They were quickly declared federal disaster areas because of historic flooding that washed out roads, filled basements, and left a waterline of destruction and despair everywhere it touched. We were awarded a contract from the State of Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services to reach out to those affected by the flooding. Approximately 35 Project Recovery outreach counselors went door to door, listening to heartbreaking stories, offering crisis counseling and connecting individuals with case managers from The Wisconsin Conference of The United Methodist Church, another nonprofit organization that was contracted by the state to provide assistance in repairing homes.
The individual stories that came out of Project Recovery’s efforts were remarkable.
One family lost its furnace to the flood waters resorted to setting an alarm every few hours during the winter so they could move space heaters around and keep their pipes from freezing. Our outreach counselors met them during their neighborhood canvassing, listened to their dilemma, and put them into contact with a case manager who helped them get a new furnace and, finally, a full night’s sleep.
In Spring Green, a Project Recovery counselor stood and watched her own home get bulldozed because damage from the flooding made repair impossible.
“The day after Thanksgiving in 2009, we walked through her house together one last time. It was very emotional,“ remembered Keith Lang, director of LSS’s Project Recovery program and chairman of WIVOAD (Wisconsin Volunteer Organization Active in Disaster). After the house was gone, she continued to go door to door, helping other families who were suffering as she was.
With the help federal disaster assistance, and in coordination with other not-for-profit organizations, including the Wisconsin United Methodist Conference and 211 of Wisconsin, Project Recovery contributed to the rebuilding of 500 homes, but its counselors provided comfort and a listening ear to many more people.
In 2010, the counselors were winding down their work when another flooding event sent sewer water pouring into basements in the city of Milwaukee. Project Recovery was able to mobilize quickly and send its counselors into the city’s neighborhoods, where they identified individuals who couldn’t manage the clean up on their own.
By God’s grace, Wisconsin has been spared from another statewide disaster in the last few years, but our staff engage in year-round planning exercises and discussions with other organizations so it is ready to respond the next time Mother Nature lashes out.