UMCOR at Work in Detroit

8/13/2015

One of the many volunteers helping to remove flood-damaged items from a Detroit home and aiding in cleanup. Photo: Lawrence Matthews
One of the many volunteers helping to remove flood-damaged items from a Detroit home and aiding in cleanup. Photo: Lawrence Matthews

 

By Susan Kim, www.umcor.org contributor 

Nearly a year after floodwaters inundated Detroit in a disaster that made few national headlines, long-term recovery is, in some ways, only just beginning. Hundreds of homes still have basements that need to be mucked out and cleaned before residents can even think about repairs.

Through partnerships with All Hands Volunteers and Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS), theUnited Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is helping flood survivors in Detroit begin their path back to a new normal.

“Our current case load is more than 30 and growing every day,” said Becky Wilson, coordinator of the Northwest Detroit Flood Recovery Project. “We have two full-time disaster case managers, and in August we will welcome a Global Mission Fellow US-2 to our team as volunteer coordinator.” The US-2 program offers a 2-year mission opportunity for young adults ages 20-30.

Partnerships Strengthen Recovery

MDS Detroit Project Coordinator Lawrence Matthews called the partnership with UMCOR “a wonderful collaboration.” MDS has been focusing on cleaning and sanitizing basements and homes, dozens of which are still in the same damaged state they were days after the flooding occurred.

If these homes aren’t cleaned out properly, they become a breeding ground for harmful mold. Many people are still living in damaged homes, and they need help removing debris and damaged appliances.

“We are working with UMCOR’s case managers, and eventually we will be working on some complete rebuilds,” said Matthews.

When UMCOR began handling case management for the flood-damaged areas of the city, the needs became clearer to everyone trying to help, said Reuben Grandon, project director of the All Hands Detroit project.

“We’re working hard to recruit volunteers,” he said. “We’d be getting a lot more work done if we could get more volunteers here. We’re prepared for them. We have a queue of work orders, but we don’t have the volunteer numbers we’d like to see.”

The number of people who need help in Detroit is not well-known by the wider public — and it’s mind-boggling, said Wilson. “The list we have from the Federal Emergency Management Agency from northwest Detroit alone has 43,000 applications,” she said. “Our priority list is 1,800.”