So, a reporter calls me yesterday. After gracefully beginning the conversation with a bit of innocuous chit chat, she zeroes in on the purpose of her call. Why is flood recovery taking so long? It’s been six months, already. Why is recovering from this flood taking so ‘frickin’ long? I’ll admit I added the inflection because I am just a wee bit emotionally injured.
Let’s just begin with the experience of one flood survivor: Me.
This is what the interior of CRC looked like at the end of May. It is exactly the way the interior looks today, six months later. Why is it taking so long. Well, first of all we had to acquire an architect, which we did through the benevolence of Street, Dixon, Rick, who volunteered to draw us new plans for the building. I learned that architecture is not drawing a few lines with a pencil and calling it done. It took awhile to come up with the design in consultation with our contractors, American Constructors, so that when the project did begin everyone would be on the same page.
We had multiple meetings to pick materials. We even had a meeting to select the location of outlets. That was a bucket of fun.
At the same time, I was first in SBA land and then in FEMA land. There is much paperwork generated. It takes time. In fact, I am still in FEMA land, trying to ascertain when the last third of my building fund will find its way into the CRC bank account. There are building permits to pull and materials to be acquired. It takes a long time.
So now let’s move to the broader picture in Nashville and Middle Tennessee. I am guessing that only about ten percent of flood survivors are back in their homes. For the ones who aren’t, there are a multitude of reasons why. For most of the survivors, FEMA money wasn’t nearly enough to fix the damage. There is a financial gap between what they have and what they need. To fill that gap takes time. It may take a loan or grant from the Housing Fund. It may take some other kind of assistance. It may take donated materials and labor. Right now, there are not enough materials in the state of Tennessee to fix all the damage. To find materials takes time.
For other survivors, they may not be back in their homes because they’re waiting to find out if their homes will be bought out by the city. Or they’re trying to figure out how in the world they will be able to afford raising their homes three feet if they’re in a certain part of the flood plain. Or, in some cases, they’re not waiting for anything because they have simply walked away from their homes for good. Maybe they had an upside down mortgage, where they owed more on the home than it was worth. Maybe there were so many other things wrong with their home to begin with that just fixing the flood damage wouldn’t be enough. There are flood-damaged abandoned homes all over Nashville. It is a real problem for those people still living in those neighborhoods.
For those of us on the front lines of flood relief, we’re trying as hard as we can. This is our first rodeo in the devastation arena. Processes had to be put in place to identify flood survivors, ascertain their needs and then meet them as quickly as possible. Processes had to be put in place to figure out who was in the most extreme need. And processes had to be put in place to make sure that scam artists weren’t walking off with mattresses or furniture and then selling them on Craig’s List. And all that takes time.
Not to mention the fact, which I will, that all of us had jobs that had nothing to do with flood relief prior to May 1 and we still have those jobs to perform.
There is not a single person providing flood relief and recovery who wouldn’t shut their eyes right this second if they thought they could just wish this whole flood nightmare away. But open your eyes. It’s still right there. I am sad to say that recovery from this kind of a catastrophic event will take years, not months. It is a marathon, not a sprint.
And, yes. It will take a long time.
“Patience is not passive; on the contrary, it is active; it is concentrated strength.” ~Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton