Resource Fair brings recovery agencies under one roof

Published 3:32 pm Friday, October 7, 2022

RESERVE — Agencies eager to help St. John the Baptist Parish residents with recovery questions gathered under one roof Wednesday evening during the Hurricane Ida Recovery and Resource Expo at the REGALA Gymnasium in Reserve.

Planning and Zoning Director Tara Lambeth was inspired to bring a resource fair to St. John Parish after seeing a similar event in the New Orleans region. Lambeth has fielded calls from community members who pose multi-faceted recovery questions that needed to be addressed by several different agencies.

St. John Parish President Jaclyn Hotard said the strong turnout at this week’s Recovery Expo indicates that there is still a need in the community for information.

“Having everyone under one roof is a really convenient way for us to bring these resources to our residents,” she said. “You may have an SBA question, a FEMA question and a Department of Insurance question, and you can get them answered all at once.”

According to Hotard, support services are just as important to the recovery process. Among the vendors participating in the Resource Expo were FEMA, the Small Business Administration, RESTORE, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, Entergy, the Department of Insurance, the Department of Health and Human Services, the St. John Parish Assessor’s Office, Louisiana Appleseed, Catholic Charities Disaster Management, Louisiana Spirit Crisis Counseling and the Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans.

Residents who stopped by the Assessor’s Office booth had questions regarding assessed property values and taxes. Questions regarding property titles were also addressed to Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, an organization that has provided free legal help to St. John Parish residents since October of last year.

Hailey Manint said that, while requests for legal help have not necessarily slowed down in the year since the storm, the needs of the community have changed over time.

“Right after the storm, we saw a lot of FEMA denials. In the meantime, we have seen a lot of people who need a succession, whether it be to get their FEMA money, to get their RESTORE money, or even if they want to sell the house,” Manint said. “Lately, these last few months, we’ve seen a lot of contractor issues.”

Through the office in Baton Rouge, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services is continuing to help residents with not only FEMA disputes, title clearing and contractor fraud, but also landlord-tenant issues, housing issues, bankruptcy and foreclosure, and even family law.

Individuals should be prepared to provide a FEMA number or other evidence that their issue is storm-related in order to qualify for the free legal services.

“Anyone who is on the fence about whether they would qualify should call,” Manint said.

The number for legal services is 225-448-0080.

Another organization that residents may not have been aware of as a storm recovery resource is the Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans.

HBAGNO President Randy Noel, a St. John Parish resident, said the organization offers an extensive directory of reputable contractors and homebuilders.

“All of them are licensed and insured. They all have legitimate contracts, and they don’t live in Alabama or Texas. They’re not going to take your money and leave,” Noel said.

The directory can be obtained by visiting hbagno.org. The Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans also offers a wealth of knowledge on updated building codes aimed at increasing resiliency to future storms.

“The best place in America to write homeowner’s insurance right now is LaPlace, Louisiana, because everyone’s got a new roof,” Noel said.

For more information on Hurricane Ida disaster recovery resources, contact St. John the Baptist Parish at 985-652-9569.