The ‘Shelter At Home’ program is a great idea for those who did not have the means to disassemble their homes and treat for mold following the ‘Great Flood of 2016.’
However, that is where the scope of work should have stopped, and the program should have come into the spotlight much, much earlier than it did.
For reference, the ‘Shelter at Home’ program offers up to $15,000 to have your home gutted, treated for mold, and then re-built to a ‘livable’ standard. The reason for the re-construction process is to try and get residents back into their homes as temporary housing options in the Baton Rouge area disappeared very quickly.
The re-building portion either should not have been offered, or the payout should have been increased.
Rewind to the days, even the first few weeks following the flood. The main topic of discussion? No, it wasn’t FEMA just yet - people wanted to know how to properly clean out their houses.
Frequently asked questions by residents included how much sheetrock should I cut out? What about the insulation? Do I need to remove my cabinets? How dry do my studs need to be? How do I treat for mold?
Many of those questions were answered by media outlets, friends, contractors (some good, some bad), religious groups... anyone who was out-and-about helping, or pretending to help. Armed with that information, many individuals were able to gut their homes many weeks ago.
Now, five weeks after the catastrophe, the fine print in the ‘Shelter At Home’ program still hasn’t been ironed out - due in large part to questions about mobile homes.
Too little, too late for a lot of people considering many of the homes that were never gutted are now overtaken by mold and damage from post-flood issues.
Many don’t need the first part of the service because, as mentioned, they already used the available information to clean their house.
Perhaps many people still need help gutting their home, and while the damage may be severe at this point, $15,000 is still a good payout for cleanup and mold remediation.
However, when getting into sheetrock work to make the home livable? That’s another situation entirely.
Currently, FEMA is using $80 per square foot to determine the damage amount on homes. That figure includes things like flooring, cabinetry, and walls. Take a quarter of that, $20 per square foot, for wall-work.
$15,000, at $20 per square foot for wall work, comes out to 750 square feet - less than half the size of many homes in Livingston Parish which flooded and were not substantially damaged (over 18 inches, 50% or more damage to the value of the home).
Should it come at any surprise that pictures and videos of the ‘Shelter at Home’ finished product, complete with shoddy work, lack of caring on the ‘state approved contractor,’ and some passionate words from residents?
Note that the $15,000 estimate provided would be for a home that was already gutted and cleaned, showing only the cost of putting up new walls. The figure did not include any homes which also needed to be cleaned first. Keep in mind, as well, that a clean home isn’t necessarily a ‘dry’ home - wood studs have to be dried first, before sheetrock can be floated.
The $15,000 figure was probably the low bidder, as is customary with any governmental bid situation these days. One wonders, however, if anyone involved in the process took a look at the $15,000 figure and said to themselves, ‘That doesn’t look right.’
Why is this a problem? Shouldn’t people be happy that the government is at least willing to spend a few dollars to try and get their house put back together?
If the work was ‘just good enough,’ maybe that line of reasoning will work, however - if the re-construction efforts have to be torn down and re-done since the work was so bad, why are they done at all?
The fact that some people may have been excluded from the program could be a blessing in disguise.
It will be some time before the final figures are tallied to see if the program was successful in its goal, or not, but this disaster was not Katrina - the water did not keep people out for long, and those folks got their homes clean as soon as possible.
What most citizens who were affected needed was proper work done on their home, at an appropriate price and skill, so that they could live at home. Some are able to move back in, but in most cases its due to the sweat from their own brow.
Don’t take the money, either, if its offered but you don’t plan to use it toward the program. The big thing governmental entities learned from Katrina? They audit, and then they come get their money back.