Volunteers are often the lifeblood of a disaster recovery effort. Following the Souris River flooding, volunteers have already helped countless families return to their flood-damaged homes. But the same housing shortage that is affecting displaced residents has limited the number of volunteers that can come in to the area and help. On the grounds of Our Savior's Lutheran Church in south Minot, a unique solution to that problem has sprung up in the form of Hope Village.
Hope Village is a temporary community that will house incoming volunteers. It includes trailers that provide sleeping quarters, bathroom and shower facilities, and a large dining tent that serves three meals a day. It is the culmination of efforts from a coalition of local faith-based and community volunteer organizations. Much like Henry Ford's original assembly line, the different volunteer agencies have divided up the tasks for managing the facility, playing to their strengths. For example, cooking duties are being handled by the Southern Baptists.
“Hope Village was borne out of necessity and we now have a place to house and feed the teams that are coming in from the various agencies and churches,” says Bob Lower, a United Methodist volunteer coordinator and lay leader at Faith United Methodist Church in Minot. “There was nowhere for people that wanted to come and help to stay. With the oil boom, everything was tied up. As a part of the Hope Village mission, we took on the challenge of housing these people and feeding them for the whole summer.”
But Hope Village does much more than provide food and shelter for volunteers. It is also a hub of activity, working closely with the Resources Agencies Flood Team (RAFT) to direct the volunteers to pre-identified individuals and families who are in need of assistance. It’s a streamlined process to ensure donated labor and resources are used as efficiently as possible.
“Our focus is on helping those people who have been affected by the flood get back into a safe and secure space,” says Lower. “We do that by providing assistance in coordination with the case management system. The case management system takes people through the process, assessing what they need to get back in, be it materials, labor and the appropriate skill sets. It dovetails with what the homeowner can do by themselves. We will complete enough of the home to get them back in. For example, with a couple living in a four bedroom home, we completely finish one bedroom along with the common use areas needed for safe and secure living.”
With the large number of homes impacted by the flooding, Hope Village and its resident volunteers have their work cut out for them. However, those involved are prepared for a marathon rather than a sprint.
“We will be here for a number of years to get through all of the need that there is,” says Lower. “We can’t do all of the homes in one year, but we are going to make a significant impact this first year. This year we opened the first week of April and will go to the first of October. We’ve already set the 2013 work year. That’s going to be from the April 8 to September 28. During the winter months, we will organize local volunteers from the community to keep work going inside homes.”
To learn more about Hope Village visit hopevillagend.org.