St. John organizations come together to rebuild homes

It starts with a meeting and turns into action.

“The resiliency housing imitative main goal is to put permanent roofs on St. John homes,” Catikawa Richardson the Disaster Case Manager at STJ Angels said.

Members of Love City Strong, STJ Angels, St. John Community Foundation and All Hands and Hearts meet in St. John each week to make a plan. A plan to get the people that were displaced by Hurricanes Irma and Maria back into their homes.

“The process itself is excruciatingly frustrating,” Hillary Bonner with STJ Angels Long Term Recovery Team said.

Bonner said even though there has been a large amount of federal aid coming in, navigating the system is hard to do alone. Then there’s the added challenge of rebuilding on an island. Just getting supplies here and finding the workers to do the labor is a challenge in itself. But that’s why all of these organizations are joining forces in what’s called the Resilient Housing Initiative.

“Our organization is a disaster relief organization this type of collaboration is rare but is usually the most effective,” Ryan Cuevas a Program Director at All Hands and Hearts Smart Response added.

Cuevas and the team from All Hands and Hearts Smart Response come in for the demo. Then the structural planning came in.

“From the roofing guys from letting them know when the houses are ready to start or the interior crews, and then also making sure we have materials for all of those projects,” Erin Taylor a Project Manager for the RHI Program said.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates up to 74% of low and middle-income homes were damaged in the storms. Many of those full-time St. John residents are eligible for help from the RHI.

Heidi Arnold studied architecture and how to rebuild homes after storms. While she never thought one would hit right in her own backyard she’s happy to be using her talents, to give back.

“I’m just really excited by this you know I do feel like I have been wanting to be a good resource for this island and not just in the design sense producing homes for people but as part of the community,” Arnold added.

At the end of the day, the imitative is just a group of people, each with their own strengths helping St. John families come back home.

“Being St. Johnians and living here and just living the lives that we do really gave us the tools to jump into action I’m just glad to have the group I’m with,” Lanny Roberts, Owner at Blue Bay Construction added.