Residents swap hurricane stories, and get information about relief, at the Flagler County Public Library.
Friday, Oct. 14 update
The hurricane assistance center, that has been operating out of the Flagler County Public Library the past three days, has closed and been replaced with a virtual center at www.flaglerassist.com.
The site has links to local agencies that are helping residents with post-hurricane needs.
As of Friday, a federal declaration had not been made to qualify Flagler County for individual assistance; however residents can pre-register at www.disasterassistance.gov.
Residents who fill out the “address look-up” on the government site will get the message: “No disasters declared for individual assistance were found for this address.” Despite that message, residents can still apply for assistance. The system will let applicants proceed if early registration is open for Florida or Flagler County, and the application process will proceed if the county is added to an active declaration.”
The FEMA Helpline, 800-621-3362, (TTY 800-462-7585), are available from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week.
A community of people formed a line extending into the parking lot at the Flagler County Public Library on Thursday. It was a community with a common denominator – Hurricane Matthew. The library’s parking lot counter registered more than 2,300 cars on Wednesday, a number that was expected to be higher on Thursday and Friday.
As Maria Khawaja of the P-section returned to her car, she looking a little dazed. Not unusual for someone from New York who had never been through a weather-related disaster in Florida.
“I just wanted to know who to call. I think my deduction for homeowner’s insurance is a lot, and how I am going to fix my roof? I don’t know,” Khawaja said. “They had me fill out an application (FEMA).”
Larry Jones, a consultant who has worked with Flagler County before, and was part of the policy council for the Emergency Operations Center in Orange County, was asked by the county, to set up the information event.
“FEMA has not designated this as a FEMA disaster area for their purposes yet (as of Thursday, Oct. 13),” Jones said. “We are telling everyone, “We will help you pre-register on the FEMA online site. That doesn’t mean you are going to get anything from FEMA, it means if they do the designation you’ll be enrolled.”
W-section resident Melissa Santiago stood in line with her sons, Jamarri Santiago and Eli Vazquez. A resident for more than 20 years she had been through her share of hurricanes.
“We lost everything in the freezer, so we are here to see what’s available for help,” Santiago said. “The house itself is OK. Our fence was damaged and trees uprooted.”
Most of the agencies were in the reading room at the back of the library. Jason DeLorenzo sat at the Flagler Home Builders Association table with a list of local contractors registered with the county, or are state certified.
“We are also giving out information on how to protect yourself from unlicensed contractors,” DeLorenzo said. “How to check a license, what to look for and what questions to ask are all in that pamphlet.”
Lyn McCormick, Flagler County Resource Coordinator, sat at the United Way table with Gretchen Fink, 2-1-1 information referral call specialist. McCormick, the first designated United Way coordinator in Flagler County, started her job with the Volusia/Flagler United Way in the middle of August with the Power of the Purse initiative.
“I physically live here in Flagler,” McCormick said. “I am working with United Way office and trying to be a floater with all of the different agencies that we work with, and partner with, up here.”
The 211 community resource program is accessible by calling 2-1-1 or online, 211Live.org, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
“Most people are looking for help with replacing the food they lost in the freezer,” Fink said. “There are also the financial problems that come with missing work. Some of the places they worked are no longer available and they are not going to have an income, but the rent is still due and power will need to be paid.”
Paulette Lewis sat by her mother Mavis Lewis’ wheel chair, waiting. The women were in their home in the W-section when a tree crashed through the roof in Paulette’s room.
“It broke through the roof in my room. You go in and you can see the sky outside,” Paulette Lewis said. “Two big booms, like a bomb was coming down.”
The mother and daughter have lived in their home for 19 years, but now, thanks to a neighbor, are living across the street.
“We couldn’t stay in the house because of the damage and there were no hotel rooms available in Palm Coast or Ormond,” Paulette said. “Our neighbor said we could stay in her home, right across the street, while she is in St. Augustine. We are doing the best we can. Thank God for good neighbors and friends.”
The program at the library will continue through Friday, Oct. 14 at 6 p.m. -- at least. Jones said that all of the individual agencies have their own websites and helplines, and those who were unable to come to the library, should contact them directly.
“We wanted to do this program for those who have been so heavily impacted by the storms,” Jones said. “We mobilized 10 agencies that we have here now that provide a variety of services. It’s been challenging, and so needed for this community, and rewarding for us to be able to help.”
“I am really pleased at how all of the agencies have come together to do this,” Jones said. “The level of cooperation has just been tremendous .”