Future of Furniture Program for Families Displaced by Flood

Mar 9, 2017


Laura Hunsberger recently spoke with Marilyn Gray, Midlands District Chair of the St. Vincent de Paul South Carolina Disaster Relief Program, and Dr. Lisabeth Medlock, Founder and Director of the Palmetto Project Community Flood Hub. Over the past year, Hunsberger has been following their work to provide furniture to families affected by the 2015 floods. In this interview, Gray and Medlock explain how their organizations, along with other community partners, developed a streamlined furniture distribution program.

(Original Story: October 26, 2015)

It has been over a year since the great floods of October 2015, but many people are still working toward a full recovery. Homes are being rebuilt and St. Vincent de Paul of South Carolina has hundreds of families qualified and waiting for furniture. After providing furniture for more than 100 families, the official House in a Box program is ending in South Carolina. House in a Box was the only program in the state providing new furniture for flood-affected residents.

Marilyn Gray, Chair of St. Vincent de Paul SC Disaster Relief Services, says the organization and community partners will try to keep the program going in a different form. South Carolina Public Radio’s Laura Hunsberger has more on the story.

When I spoke with Elizabeth Disco-Shearer, COO of St. Vincent de Paul Disaster Services, she was on her way to work in Louisiana, where flooding this summer damaged more than 60,000 homes.  Louisiana is one of 37 disasters St. Vincent de Paul Disaster Services is currently working. Disco-Shearer says it has been an unprecedented year for disasters, and relief organizations are overwhelmed. When West Virginia had catastrophic flooding earlier in the summer, followed soon after by Louisiana’s flooding, St. Vincent de Paul Disaster Services had to pull national staff at work in South Carolina to help in the relief effort.

House in a Box has 11 programs serving in areas across the country. Disco-Shearer says the program accomplished a lot in South Carolina, providing furniture for 130 total families (average of four persons per household) and case management for about 380 individuals. Initially they had planned on staying for longer than a year, says Disco-Shearer, but there have been so many disasters this year that organizations have been stretched thin. The program was able to help about a quarter of the applicants, prioritizing those with the greatest need. People who did not get money from FEMA or other resources were helped first.

When Hurricane Matthew hit the southeast coast this October, South Carolina experienced another major disaster. As the state continues to recovery from last year’s floods, some areas saw new damage from the hurricane. I asked Elizabeth Disco-Shearer if damage from the most recent disaster would bring the House in a Box program back to South Carolina. The answer is: possibly, but it would not benefit those affected by last year’s floods. If the program were to return to South Carolina, their mission would be to help those affected by Hurricane Matthew.

That leaves hundreds of flood-affected families, with qualified need of assistance, still on the waitlist for furniture. House in a Box was the only program in the state providing new furniture for flood-affected residents. St. Vincent de Paul South Carolina members and their community partners will aim to continue the work through the end of the year or for as long as possible.

For information about St. Vincent de Paul South Carolina Disaster Services, visit their Facebook page.