June 12, 2018

Profiles in Recovery and Rebuilding: Centro Campesino Farmworker Center, Inc.

Profiles in Recovery and Rebuilding - Centro Campesino Farmworker Center, Inc.

By Sara Haas, Senior Program Director, Southeast

In 2017 Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria wrought destruction across communities from the Gulf Coast to Puerto Rico, disrupting lives and destroying homes. As part of our recovery and rebuilding work, Enterprise created the Enterprise Hurricane Community Recovery Fund to support short-term relief and longer-term efforts in the most heavily damaged areas.

Grantee Q&A

This is the second post in a Q&A blog series with leaders from nonprofits that received fund support to serve low-income residents displaced by the storm.

Wadith Martinez.JPGWhere are you focused geographically?

Wadith Martinez, Disaster Relief Community Coordinator: We offer assistance to residents in Broward county, Miami-Dade County and the Florida Keys (Monroe County). Each county and city is different to work in. Even in the Keys, each island has its own culture and approach. 

What were the community's greatest needs after Hurricane Irma?

WM: After the hurricane, people urgently needed the basics to survive. Some locations did not have power or water for three weeks. The first phase of assistance entailed immediately responding with water, prepared meals, canned food and ice – meeting the basic needs of those affected.

After food and necessities, people began to think about shelter and their livelihoods. This is an agricultural area. Crops were destroyed and as a result, people lost their jobs and sources of income. They needed financial assistance to bridge the gap. We helped with rent assistance, utilities and food vouchers. This was the second phase of recovery.

Many people were evacuated to other areas and had to expend costs for hotels and food. This meant their financial obligations were harder to meet after they returned. Many could not meet their own deductibles for insurance. This is the phase of recovery in which most people currently find themselves.

Centro Campesino is now helping people look at long-term stability and improvement. We help with repairing damages to homes and other obligations not covered by FEMA. There are significant financial obstacles ahead for these residents. 

How did Centro Campesino get involved?

WM: Our reputation in the community is one of service. People know that Centro Campesino is always available to help. We go to schools, churches, community events and community agencies to share that we can help people who are in need. Our programs also include an after-school care program and a summer camp for kids, first time homebuyers’ solutions and financial education, and home improvements; wind mitigation program and weatherization (an energy efficiency program). 

Where have you made progress?

WM: One of the challenges that we have worked on is bridging resources for the community we serve. The community is aware that FEMA is available to help, but they don’t know how to file claims, fill out forms correctly or where to go to apply for help. This is especially true with undocumented people, since they often assume that they won’t qualify for help.

We provide workshops that teach people how to file claims, how to present a claim, how to check their insurance policies and understand insurance deductibles. We work hard to offer this kind of education to the community.    

Is it possible to help people prepare in a way that limits the impact of the storm?

WM: The Alliance wanted to be respectful of the community members and what they were experiencing. They had already dealt with many groups coming in and out of the community to ask questions.  

Although The Alliance helps connect individuals to resources, it doesn’t always mean they get the help they need. We do our best not to over-promise, but there can be a cultural gap and lack of understanding about the process and resources. We have to make sure we are doing our best to provide education about available resources.  

What does the community need most right now? 

WM: Resiliency is the best preparation. We are trying to educate people how to prepare before the storm with things like creating survival kits and knowing where to evacuate. We are also trying to teach people that they should leave if asked to evacuate – don’t risk it. Prepare NOW.  
We are also working on creating a process of assessing storm damage and assessing resources. For example, if you have property damage, do X and Y to help minimize the damage. 

What have you learned from your experience? What would you like others to know? 

WM: People have been very willing to help others. Miami is a large, busy city, but people actually care and are willing to support others. 

Florida City is much smaller and agricultural – almost 50 percent of people are below the poverty line. Financial stability is critical for a resilient disaster recovery. We want to promote the idea that education and self-improvement are important, and that community college is local and available. We are trying to help the community college offer night or weekend classes to the families.

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