After 939 days, Connie Campbell was able to return home. Catholic Charities of South Mississippi, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, proudly celebrated Connie on Friday, May 26. Bishop Louis F. Kihneman III blessed her home and her family and all that worked to make this a reality.
Connie’s journey is the example of what hap-pens after a disaster for many people. She and her husband lived in their home for 30 years. They had been struggling for about a year with health issues that made daily life challenging.
Then, Hurricane Zeta slammed into our area the end of October 2020. The Campbell’s’ home was terribly damaged — the power pole was knocked down, the roof and windows were dam-aged resulting in ceiling and floor damage. They continued living in it, attempting to make the best of an unhealthy and unsafe situation.
Suddenly forced to figure out a housing plan is overwhelming — dealing with multiple people and organizations, providing so many documents, constant phone calls and office visits, only to be told no help is available.
The process can be frustrating and depressing. With the Campbells, their daughter Marissa and son-in-law Zach, we pursued all options that were available at that time. However, we soon discovered their home was too damaged to repair, affordable rental units were not available, and mobile homes were in short supply and unaffordable.
Less than three months after Zeta, Connie’s husband passed, adding yet another layer to life after disaster. Thankfully, she and her pups were invited to move in with Marissa and Zach. But Connie longed for her own space again and Marissa’s and Zach’s home would soon have another resident — their baby girl.
Catholic Charities of South Mississippi received grants for three rebuilds from Catholic Charities USA, United Way of South Mississippi, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, Lowes, Wells Fargo, and Navigate Affordable Housing Partners. Air BnB provided funding to help our three clients with temporary housing while their new homes were being built and private donations helped meet basic needs as well.
Because of dozens of major disasters in 2020 and COVID, volunteer labor was in short supply and repair material prices had increased making the cost of re-builds more than expected. We found ourselves in the very unusual circum-stance of having funds but still unable to move forward.
After many months of searching for a partner to help with the builds, Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast stepped up and said yes. Their team provided labor and gap funding which made the plans come to life.
Connie’s journey is very typical of long-term recovery following a disaster. But this is the phase most people never see; coverage and inter-est quickly wane after the initial event. Meanwhile, communities struggle through not only all the issues related to the disaster, but all the life cir-cumstances many of us face — job loss, financial problems, divorce, injury, illness, and death. After a disaster, much work remains even when the news cameras leave.
This beautiful, secure home stands here because of great partnerships, patience, and God sending just who and what was needed in His perfect timing. Disaster recovery definitely requires many agencies, groups, and individuals working together for the common goal. No one group can do it alone.
Through many people walking together in faith, Connie is home again, providing care for her beautiful granddaughter, with her beloved pups, and a place for her to express her gift of creativity through her crafts. May all who helped her return, and everyone with us today, feel God’s grace and peace.