The autumn of 2020 was a hurricane season to remember. Within a matter of weeks, Hurricanes Laura and Delta ravaged the Gulf Coast, and many people weathered both storms. Months later, the region is still recovering from the devastation. Family Promise of Acadiana in Lafayette, LA, was hit by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, shortly after opening its doors, so this time around its team was slightly more prepared. But you can’t fight Mother Nature, and though the Affiliate was spared major damage, it is still awaiting roof repairs.
“Fortunately, we were only out of power 48 hours, but neighborhoods were trashed,” recalls Executive Director Renee Menard. “Add this to the health pandemic, and it really was a ‘perfect storm.’”
Family Promise of Acadiana was already in crisis management mode with COVID-19. It normally shelters three families at a time, but since April it has provided shelter in local hotels for as many as ten families.
Menard recalls the increased need for support in 2005, when the region was hit by two consecutive hurricanes and the city’s population grew by 75,000 as evacuees converged seeking shelter and security. Fifteen years and two hurricanes later, the housing crisis is even more dire.
“We’re lucky to have the support we got from [Family Promise] National,” Menard says.
Donors responded generously to Family Promise’s national hurricane relief campaign, enabling Affiliates in the region, like Family Promise of Acadiana, to better handle the storms’ aftermath.
The Affiliate collaborated with local nonprofits to travel to impacted neighborhoods. They hand-delivered 400 cases of water, fed hot meals to approximately 1,300 people, and provided more than 1,500 gallons of gas and extra gas cans to residents who lost electricity. The relief teams also distributed $1,500 worth of tarps to homes that had been hit by both storms.
“People who lost roofs in Hurricane Laura replaced them with tarps as a temporary fix,” explains Menard. “Then when Delta came along, they lost their tarps.”
Family Promise volunteers and other community groups even set up an outdoor “store” to facilitate the distribution of necessities like diapers, baby food, and cleaning supplies. The space allowed everyone to abide by pandemic physical distancing recommendations – people could drive up to the store and select the items they needed from the safety of their cars.
Although the Affiliate is serving families remotely, Menard looks forward to in-person service.
“We can do case management online, but families miss out on the everyday interactions that happen at the day center,” she says.
In the meantime, Family Promise of Acadiana will serve families in whatever way is possible, as well as continue to offer outreach to families impacted by the 2020 hurricanes. Menard predicts these relief efforts will continue for at least six or eight more months.
“We’ll rebuild,” Menard says. “It’s home, and people here are very resilient.”
She adds that they’re also very grateful for all the assistance they’ve been receiving since the storms, but she notes it’s a two-way street.
“I’ve found it’s just like when you volunteer at Family Promise – you tend to get at least as much out of it as the families in the program do,” she says.