Plea from the field. Bob Putnam, (MS/Gulf Coast)

Pearlington recovery center- a non profit organization that started in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina/Rita. Established by Herb Ritchie, Larry Randall, Laurie Spaschak and the many organizations that came and administered aid to the many residents that lost friends,family and houses by the wrath of these storms. First meeting the immediate need of food, clothing and temporary shelter, the center has morphed into one of the most productive revitalization centers in Hancock County, Mississippi.

The Recovery Center is located on the former grounds of the Charles B Murphy Elementary school . The property is owned by the school district and the school board is adamant that the school will not be rebuilt. The majority of the bills for the Recovery Center have been paid by the county government but,as we move further away from 8/29/2005, the financial burden of this endeavor has forced the government to curtail the aid that they have been providing.

The philosophy of the center is quite simple- Find aid for the homeowner in order to move them in to permanent dwellings. This is done by doing casework for the affected families and then plugging them into the grants that the qualify for. The Pearlington Recovery Center has 4 caseworkers on staff and the United Methodist has one stationed here. The Recovery Center is trying to focus on the Unincorporated area of Hancock County that is nearly 40%(16,800) of the counties(42,000) population (year 2000 census). Currently the PRC has over 130 cases in some stage of the process. It takes approximately 2 -3 months from intake to obtaining grants for materials for these clients. Once the funding is in place, It is crucial to have volunteers on board to do the labor part of the project.

The Recovery Center has housing for approximately 250 volunteers at any one time. These volunteers are overseen by 6 construction coordinators that are knowledgeable in both the newly adopted building codes and with residential construction. The volunteers are used as the workforce that builds houses for those that have materials, but can’t afford contractual labor and those that have acquired materials through grants to have houses built for them. Most groups that stay at the recovery center are here for 5 to 7 days and are evaluated as to their construction skill level so that their talents are utilized to be most efficient.

By providing the whole package – the casework, grant writing, housing volunteers and construction management – we are able to work with the families and get them back into safe, permanent housing. We have many projects in progress and have new clients coming in each month. The neighboring areas of Lakeshore, Clermont and Ansley were also severely damaged and have had little help and we are reaching out to assist them as well. We need to be able to continue providing these services and housing the volunteers that come to help rebuild.

So our dilemma is very evident; controversy has surrounded the school grounds since the beginning of the recovery efforts. The school board is reluctant to give a lease to the Pearlington Recovery Center, the county government or any of the organizations that are interested in leasing the abandoned property for recovery efforts.

Without a lease the Pearlington Recovery Center can not function effectively. The “squatting rights” that the school board has allowed and the local government has funded, may be rescinded at anytime.

Our solution to this problem is quite simple- Move all the Pearlington Recovery Center operations onto the grounds of the football field that is owned by the county. To do this we will need funding for a 120’x60′ trussle tent that will be used for office space and warehouse(material storage) the cost of the tent is $80k installed. Also needed will be funding to erect 8 additional bunkhouses(housing 160) cost of materials are $60k.

Trying to relieve the burden on the county, we are campaigning to raise $175k to pay for the yearly operation budget, of which none of these funds will be used for salaries.

For more information please contact Bob at:
6098 First Street
Pearlington, MS 39572
228-533-010 1 FAX 228-533-0108

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