BakerRipley’s approach to long-term disaster recovery

Posted on January 5, 2018

Since the closing of the shelter at NRG Center in September, BakerRipley has been working around the clock to help folks affected by Hurricane Harvey. We have put in place disaster recovery programs which will be responsive to the needs of our neighbors and we are focused on providing resources to alleviate human suffering caused by the storm.

Hurricane Harvey has been recognized as the nation’s third largest economic disaster after Hurricane Katrina and the 9/11 attacks. Moody’s Analytics estimates Harvey’s losses for the U.S. at $97.0 billion, including $87 billion in property losses and $10 billion in lost economic output.

Harvey was unlike anything we’ve ever seen and the recovery will be monumental, requiring substantial funds and all of us working together to establish a new normal. At BakerRipley we’ve learned what it takes to recover after a natural disaster by using past experience as our guide. The task ahead is long and complicated, but we’re committed to doing it effectively to lift up our most vulnerable communities.

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Preparing for this moment

Our experience began at the onset of the mass evacuation of New Orleans and Gulf Coast residents into Houston following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. When asked by the City to serve at the George R. Brown Convention Center shelter, forty BakerRipley employees were there to welcome Katrina survivors from New Orleans as they disembarked from buses.

Ultimately, this prepared us for the challenges presented by Hurricane Rita, Hurricane Ike, and the 2016 Tax Day flood. Our experience with hurricane relief taught us that case management, while usually a long-term service, should begin as part of the short-term disaster response.

All these experiences have allowed us to learn first-hand the stages of disaster recovery from the viewpoint of human needs – starting with the event itself, the survival stage, and ending with recovery. Countless interactions between previous Disaster Case Management (DCM) staff and clients have provided the information to define these stages, the emotional and behavioral characteristics in each one, and the resources or interventions needed to overcome the challenges and move to the next stage.

How we’re doing it

This is an intricate process and as one of several non- profit agencies who will be providing long-term recovery, we’re working hard to do it effectively.

BakerRipley’s DCM program assists families affected by disasters and connects them to resources and services needed to stabilize and adjust to their new normal. The main components of our DCM work include assessment, triage, recovery planning, and ongoing monitoring and advocacy.

We’re providing people with emergency and temporary housing assistance, financial assistance, full home restoration and minor home repairs to name a few. We are also addressing unmet needs such as work-related expenses and medical bills.

Families and/or individuals will be linked with a Service Connector who is knowledgeable about a wide variety of systems that exist to help people – not just those that have been created in response to the disaster. As part of their plan, the service connector will help the individual identify their unmet needs (needs that have not been met through other resources, like FEMA and/or insurance).

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At the end we are looking for a few outcomes:

-Persons displaced by hurricane secure safe, permanent and affordable housing
-Persons affected by hurricane achieve at minimum, a pre-disaster level of financial stability
-Persons affected by hurricane are connected to community resources to have their needs met

In addition, BakerRipley and the City of Houston are also aiding impacted communities and vulnerable neighborhoods by establishing Neighborhood Restoration Centers. The centers will be a distribution site for basic needs, information and referrals to services, and a coordination point for recovery for area residents.

In the aftermath of the storm our five community centers served as distribution centers providing neighbors with hygiene kits, clothes, food and cleaning supplies – these have now evolved into the restoration centers mentioned above.

Long after the news cameras leave and media coverage dwindles, families will often spend an additional year or longer rebuilding their homes and lives. It’s during this critical time that we need to come together and help out as much as we can. We understand what it takes to help our neighbors every step of the way and we’re working hard to do it effectively with all partners involved.

We are thankful to all of our donors and funding supporters including the City of Houston and Harris County Hurricane Harvey Fund, United Way of Greater Houston, and the Texas Recovers Fund.

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