NC Recovery Series: Contractors Busy in March Making Florence-Battered Homes Habitable Again

Monday, April 1, 2019 - 9:15am

Jacksonville – For 30 years, Delane Gearhart has lived in the same home in Jacksonville that survived two disastrous hurricanes, Floyd and Matthew, prior to Hurricane Florence. Gearhart, - along with her family of four and a family friend who stays with her - prepared for Florence days before its arrival, but they had to leave the Sunday immediately after the storm because they ran out of food and a tree had fallen on the home’s septic tank. 

Originally, Gearhart and her family had prepared to stay with relatives in Georgia, but they had to come up with another plan because they didn’t want to leave their pets behind. “Some of my relatives aren’t as fond of cats and dogs like we are. So, we had to consider that when we left,” Gearhart said. “We have three cats and three dogs in my home and we did not want to lose or leave my pets.”

Gearhart and her family ended up staying at a Jacksonville Commons Middle School, which served as a pet-friendly shelter, for a short period of time. After that, they stayed at a shelter located at Dixon Middle School until mid-October when it closed. The family was running out of options of where to stay after the shelters began to close. Fortunately, the Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power (STEP) program made partial repairs to her home, which allowed Gearhart and her family to move back into her home on February 28th. 

“If it wasn’t for you all and the STEP program, I would still be without my house and I would not know where my family and I would be living right now,” Gearhart said. 

STEP provides basic repairs to make homes safe, secure and habitable, so residents can return home and finish repairs on their own.  Repairs to Gearhart’s home were made by DSW Homes, LLC, a contractor that has also repaired homes in STEP programs in Louisiana, Puerto Rico, and several locations in Texas.  DSW Homes has 30 home repair projects underway, another 30 completed so far, and 50 that will begin in the next few days. 

More than 4,200 homeowners are registered in the STEP program. Thirteen general contractors, along with voluntary relief groups like Baptists on Mission and United Methodist Disaster Relief, are working to complete repairs by early April. 

Hurricane Florence left a path of destruction and flooding through the state in September 2018. Since then, North Carolinians, with the help of federal and state resources, as well as nonprofit groups, have worked to rebuild hard hit areas. These stories showcase their recovery journeys as North Carolinians move forward rebuilding with strength and resilience.



Tierra Bethel