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Disaster Recovery & SHIP Program to partner on $1.8 million grant

Disaster Recovery & SHIP Program to partner on $1.8 million grant

Disaster Recovery

It has been 3 ½ months since an F2 tornado with 118 miles-per-hour wind devastated the Iona area of South Fort Myers. It brought devastation to a location with few resources people could use for recovery.

But although significant long-term challenges remain, the United Methodist Church, in coordination with other relief agencies, just received a $1.8 million in aid through the State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) Disaster Assistance Grant Agreement.

"We’ll probably be able to assist about a hundred households through this partnership and other donated funds”, Florida Conference Disaster Response Coordinator Trish Warren said. "Some may not qualify for our services, and we'll refer them to other agencies."

The storm left up to 74 destroyed homes and many others with significant damage. 

The F2 tornado that struck in South Fort Myers left devastation in its wake.

In the days after the storm, a $10,000 grant from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) allowed the Conference to provide some residences with short-term help in the form of roof tarps and debris removal. They also provided temporary housing in some cases.

That gives time to determine what the long-term needs are.

"We're looking at about a two-year recovery," Warren said.

There are multiple complicating factors.

Many homes need new flooring and roofs, but there are supply chain issues with those materials.

And the official start of hurricane season is about a month away.

"There was a lot of damage in mobile home communities," Warren said. "Most of those residents are over 55 and live on a fixed income. Often in that situation, insurance is not a priority."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) determined that it won't provide recovery assistance.

"They said this disaster did not meet the criteria," Warren said.

The people devasted by the tornado have a great need for assistance. Click on this link to donate.

With no federal aid and the cost of building materials increasing steeply, finding sufficient funding has been a top priority.

A grant from UMCOR allowed Warren to hire two people to monitor cases and recovery.

While the $1.8 million, Warren said, "is not nearly enough" to meet all the need, it will allow some residents to receive needed help.

Working with other partners to help fund some of these repairs and replacements has helped. A mobile home manufacturer, for instance, agreed to provide 30 new residences for the reduced price of $90,000 each. There's also an estimated $11,000 setup charge per unit.

That partnership alone would more than exhaust the SHIP grant money, but that's where working with those other partners helps bridge the gap.

"Mobile homes have gotten significantly more expensive," Warren said.

After Hurricane Irma in 2017, replacement units cost $75,000 each and that included the setup.

She also said the Conference hopes to partner with roofing companies to make those repairs. While volunteers can handle much of the work, Warren said she won't ask a volunteer to climb on a roof.

Joe Henderson is the News Content Editor for

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