I’ve been asked how to best help the folks reeling from the
aftermath of hurricane Katrina. I’m departing from this week’s Freedom
Letter to render what advice I can offer for those eager to help with
assistance. The following is only my personal opinion from my
experience after hurricane Charley and it is not any type of
professional, legal, or financial advice.
The recovery from hurricane Katrina is in phase one. It is the stage
when you are numb from being smacked by a hurricane. Every modern
convenience has been taken from you. All community services (hospitals,
sanitation, water, electricity, fire protection, phone, etc) are gone.
Right now the need is getting emergency water and food to the victims.
During phase I after hurricane Charley, the President of the United
States was giving out water and ice just a couple of miles from my
home. The entire nation was focused on helping us. Our local parish had
so many items trucked in from other parishes and from Catholic
Charities that they had a hard time distributing all the emergency items
Although people are literally dying of thirst as I write, within 48
to 72 hours they are going to be inundated with water and emergency
food supplies. What these people need is on the way already. My
suggestion (and this is only my suggestion) is that you concentrate
your support on phase II of recovery.
Emergency Phase I Repairs
For the homes that were temporarily flooded and no longer have water
in them, the best practical assistance is helping to get all the wet
building materials out of the house this weekend.
You wouldn’t believe the disgusting molds that can grow on wet
drywall and insulation in humid climates like the areas hit by
The best practical Phase I help we received was getting our roof
temporarily repaired and getting the wet ceilings, walls, and
insulation out of the house. The weekend after hurricane Charley my
contractor friend, Thom Jordan in Tallahassee, gathered his crew and
drove hours to Port Charlotte to remove wet ceilings, walls, and
insulation from our home. It is imperative to get everything wet out of
the house ASAP. If you know of a family with a wet, but not still
flooded home, then either hire a contractor to go there and remove the
wet building materials, or gather some friends and drive there and do
it for the family you know.
Phase II begins after the initial emergency period. It is when the
realization of what happened starts to sink in along with the awareness
that it is going to take a very long time for things to recover.
At this stage, families start making their recovery plan. I could
tell phase II began here in Port Charlotte when I heard lots of
families cussing at each other while shopping in a re-opened Wal-Mart.
The shock is wearing off and the stress really begins.
I am going to be very blunt with my advice. From the news reports
I’ve seen, I would advise most families in the worst disaster areas to
relocate, not rebuild. It is extremely difficult to rebuild after such
widespread devastation. I’ve had workers in my home this week and
hurricane Charley was over a year ago. There are homes and businesses
that haven’t even begun to rebuild here and Katrina’s damage is much
more severe. My advice is simple: get out, unless you have a compelling
reason to stay and rebuild.
Therefore, my advice to those of you wishing to assist those hit by hurricane Katrina is to focus your giving on helping families to relocate. This would involve:
· U-haul rental, if there is anything left to move
· Transportation to the new location
· Used automobile (if auto has been destroyed)
· First and last month’s rent on a furnished apartment, house, or condo
· First month’s utilities and utility deposit
· Food money for at least a month
· A few sets of clothing for the family and some toys for the kids
· Tools needed for a new job
· Helping the breadwinners to locate a new job ASAP
I don’t know of any organization focusing something like the above,
but you can start this type of assistance immediately by getting
friends, family, and your parish to sponsor a relocating family. Just
find someone who knows a family that wants to relocate and help them.
This plan is not perpetual welfare, but a simple, short-term plan to
get a family back on its feet.
The poor who were dependent upon the federal government for
assistance before the hurricane, are probably going to have to depend
upon the same after the hurricane. What happened here is that FEMA set
up a mobile-home mini-city for those who could not find or afford
temporary housing. The look of the FEMA city is a bit haunting with no
colors, no landscaping, just rows and rows of mobile homes. Yet at
least they are clean, dry, and livable facilities for poor families.
The Nightmare of Dealing with Insurance Companies
During phase II, many families will discover that their insurance
companies are rotten scoundrels. (Remember, this is my personal
opinion.) They will be late in paying and will estimate way below
repair or replacement cost. Dealing with Liberty Mutual in the months
following hurricane Charley was my biggest nightmare. If I received
only what they initially offered me to repair my home, we couldn’t have
afforded to fix it. We would have lost our home. They were very late in
paying for repairs and we had to sell assets to pay installments on
repairs. For the five months before we moved out of our rental home in
July, Liberty Mutual didn’t give us a cent for temporary housing. The
rent check finally arrived after we had already moved back in our home.
There were a few insurance companies in our community that were fair
and timely with meeting their obligations, but they were in a minority.
The single best thing I did after hurricane Charley was to hire
independent insurance adjusters that did battle with our insurance
company for us. I emphasize that you need honest adjusters. The first
set of adjusters we hired were unlicensed. They were arrested at
gunpoint by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The second adjuster we hired, Ron Delo with Insurance Claims
Consultants, was an angel sent from heaven. I can’t begin to describe
his help in getting a fair adjustment from our insurance company. I
just called Ron before writing this letter and he is heading to
Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. If you are interested in what he
offers, call 800-572-7914. If you really need to reach Ron in an
emergency situation, call him on his satellite phone at (254) 387-4714.
I am not making any type of formal, legal, or financial
recommendation for Ron. I am just telling you how he was an incredible
help to our family and to the Family Life Center in our recovery from
Charley. Ron is the type of person I would recommend to a family member
that had been slammed by another hurricane.
If the family you know is planning to rebuild, or if they want to
move on and relocate, they will probably come out way ahead with their
insurance company if they use a licensed and reputable insurance
adjuster. Help them find one.
I apologize for the length of this letter, but I felt that the
seriousness of the situation following hurricane Katrina demanded that
I offer what little advice I could.
Yours in His Majesty’s Service,
P.S. If you are sending a care package to a family, include a few
cans of stuff to fix flat tires. Flats have been a major headache all
year long following hurricane Charley. They are a super headache when
there aren’t any tire repair shops open.
Steve Wood as led youth, campus,
and pro-life ministries. A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological
Seminary, he served as an Evangelical pastor for a decade before his
entire family converted to Catholicism in 1990. Responding to a
challenge from Pope John Paul II to strengthen families, he started the
Family Life Center International in 1992. In just over a decade, the
Family Life Center has networked with 70,000 families in over 60
countries. He Steve and Karen Wood have been married twenty-six years
and are the parents of eight children. If you would like to receive his free newsetter sign up here. Contact the Family Life Center at www.familylifecenter.net.