Friday, April 14, 2006

Live from Pearlington - April 14, 2006

I have so much to share I don't know where to begin!

Something important shifted for me yesterday and I awoke this morning with great Hope in my heart. We have moved into a very new phase of the recovery and more and more people are going to begin to get back in their homes now. Larry Randall, local co-manager of the Recovery Center, reports that while driving around the Mississippi coast yesterday it dawned on him that Pearlington may actually be a bit ahead of most other places in its recovery. This little "forgotten" town may not be forgotten any longer.

We are moving out of the stage where a host of relatively unskilled workers can arrive and mudout houses, clean up debris etc. We implore you and your group to recruit more skilled individuals: electricians, plumbers, drywall hangers and particularly floaters, carpenters etc. These are desperately needed and we must put on a big push to get them here NOW. Come July 1, 2006 the emergency phase of this recovery will be deemed over by the state of Mississippi and original licensing and code laws will be re-asserted. This means that all work must be done by professional and state licensed tradespeople. Professionals licensed in other states may explore getting their MS license, which may require nothing more than verification of their credentials and a test to ensure competency. PLEASE DO THIS NOW, for preparation of the July 1st deadline.

If homeowners are encouraged to get a building permit now, before July 1st, and have graded their lots, put in the footings and foundation and at least one stud, their height elevation can be grandfathered back to the height elevations existent before Katrina. After July 1st all new home construction will need to be at least 4 feet higher than the elevation of the previous structure and rebuilds, well....let's not even go there. FEMA has completed their Advisory Base Elevation Map and we all know that FEMA is full of surprises. These houses need to be built right, especially electrically. None of us will forgive ourselves if less than professional wiring caused a fire down the road. The government knows this, hence the new rules after July 1. FEMA has published its "Home Builders' Guide to Coastal Construction" and all the code rules are in it. I will attempt to find out how to get one. I have 6 copies and will mail to groups who are serious about compliance.

LET'S PUT A BIG PUSH ON NOW. Pearlington is counting on us!

Volunteers stream into Pearlington because we all have done such a good job in inviting them here. This brings new challenges in terms of housing, feeding and safety. It requires us to be more on the same page and working together cooperatively. I cannot stress this enough: all groups visiting Pearlington must report directly, or through their parent sponsor group here, to Laurie Spaschak of the Coordination Team. This is critical for several reasons:

- we must record the work you do here and update our database, so that we eliminate duplication of effort, ensure the work being done is warranted and safe, right of entry permits by the homeowner are in place, all work is of sufficient quality, etc.
- knowing our resources that are available on a daily basis, allows our groups here to cooperate and share these resources to get the jobs done in a meaningful and efficient way; we must be more professional in this if we are to succeed as quickly as possible;
- recording this work done, the hours put in and the costs of materials and money donated allows us to create a database of same that is as good as cash when applying for government grants - some grants require, let's say, a 20% contribution by the community and YOUR volunteer hours and donations of materials can be directly used to provide that contribution
additionally, all of the hours and donations will be used to eventually offset the coming tax bill, that will trickle down from the feds, to the state, to the county, to the already-stretched folks of Pearlington; hence, your cooperation in this matter will be of direct financial benefit to the people who live here.

A wise decision has been made to move the Resource Center portion of Pearlington out of the Pearl*Mart and into its own office in one of the new bunkhouses on the edge of the field. I support this decision fully, as the hours of operation for this and for the Pearl*Mart itself are quite different. It will allow Laurie and others to do their jobs with more room and organization, less interruptions etc. Now, if we could just get power to the bunkhouses....

As I have stated, I am also concerned - as a therapist - with the emotional impact of volunteers coming to Pearlington, especially young people. This is still a traumatic situation and it has a profound effect on many who volunteer here. I will be posting, as I have said, guidelines for preparing your group, strategies for de-briefing them nightly and - most importantly - how you can support them after they get home and try to re-integrate into a society that hasn't shared their experience, doesn't understand and (seemingly) doesn't really care. It can be very difficult to re-adjust. All young people on your team need to be carefully supervised and supported and I would advise that you give great consideration to the makeup of your teams, ensuring that the ratio of youth to adults be something on the order of 1:3. Young children are not equipped to handle this situation and can be at greater risk of physical and emotional harm.

Watch for this material in the coming weeks....

Please let me be clear: if it were not for volunteers this town would still be in shambles. We need all the help we can get. We need, however, to be respectful and mindful of ALL the needs of our volunteers. Not everybody can come down here and do this and not everybody should. But EVERYBODY can make a difference in their own way: fund raising, promoting, recruiting, supporting and inspiring others.

No one really wants to talk about this, but the hurricane season will be upon us June 1st. We are working on a Volunteer Evacuation Strategy for Pearlington and will keep you updated. Simple things can be done. Ensure you have enough vehicles for your team; purchase insurance on your airline ticket in case you need to change it at the last moment. Be smart, be safe. More to come on this....

Safety issues while working in Pearlington....more to come on this....

It's Good Friday and all of us here working in Pearlington wish you and your families a wonderful Easter holiday. In your prayers, ask your Creator for guidance and inspiration to make the rebuilding of Pearlington a speedy success. Ask for how YOU can best help. As Jennifer Johnson of Huntsville, AL has so eloquently put it:

"Together, we WILL rebuild Pearlington - ONE BRICK AT A TIME."

God bless you all.
Canada Jon


At Friday, 14 April, 2006, Anonymous lisa said...

Thanks for the reminders of what is happening in the community that we had a chance to be a part of last week. We worked with PDA and are now back in NY talking to anyone who will listen about what still needs to be done. Thanks for your thoughtful words, I'll pass them along.


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