Some 900 Metro homes still not cleaned up after flood

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Warren — Cheryl Tipton knows families still trying to recover from the devastating August floods that hit the Metro Detroit.

“Everything has not been resolved,” said Tipton, outreach chairwoman at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Detroit. “People still have things that have not been repaired or replaced.”

Tipton was among a group of faith and community leaders that learned what they could do to help an estimated 900 families still cleaning their flood-damaged homes. Accompanying Tipton was Robbin Rivers, vice chairwoman of the outreach ministries at St. Paul’s.

Rivers said among the individuals she knows who are still recovering from water damage is a friend whose home flooded for the first time in 30 years.

“It affects the children in school, it affects them at work,” Rivers said. “It’s a tremendous financial burden. We’re pooling together our resources to help those that have needs to come in and do the work. It’s not a hand out. It’s help.”

Tipton and Rivers were learning how they could help at a workshop by disaster recovery specialists from Church World Service, an international humanitarian agency. At the free Recovery Tools and Training session Tuesday at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Warren they were briefed on disaster case management, construction management and emotional and spiritual care.

Among the information disaster recovery specialists shared with volunteers was how to assess after a disaster the types of repairs homeowners can perform themselves, such as basic siding repair, and which repairs are more extensive, such as property damage from fallen trees.

Volunteers were told to inform homeowners not to expect relief funds they get to be enough to cover upgrading to high-end amenities, such as granite countertops and high-quality wood cabinets.

They were also told to encourage homeowners to pull permits for repair work. Depending on the extent of the work, some homes previously grandfathered in under old building codes may need to be brought up to current code, according to disaster recovery specialists.

Church World Services says after the nearly 1,000 households in Metro Detroit looking for help with cleaning out their basements reach that first step, they still must deal with mold remediation — and more.

“Flood survivors need hope,” said Susanne Gilmore, emergency response specialist with Church World Service. “The floods were in August and here we are in December. These people still have tremendous needs. ... They haven’t been forgotten.”

One avenue of help, though, has been closed. Sunday was the last day to apply for financial assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. More than 126,000 people sought help, FEMA officials said.

Monday was the last day to apply for a low-interest loan from the Small Business Administration. As of Friday, $140.2 million FEMA grants have been approved in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.

While the majority of those in attendance were volunteers, one person came to learn what he could do to repair his flood-damaged home.

Martin Kelmet, 50, of Oak Park, said the workshop was helpful to him as a homeowner. Flood water rose to three feet in his finished basement damaging everything — including appliances and furniture.

“They helped me understand the sequence and how to go about it,” he said. “The tear down and haul away I could do on my own. The next step is where I need help, the HVAC, furnace, plumbing to put it all back together.”

The workshop will have long lasting impact for the volunteers should the area experience another disaster, said Ginna Holmes, executive director of the Michigan Community Service Commission.

“This takes care of our needs now,” she said. “We’re also looking at how we prepare ourselves for the future so we won’t have that strong learning curve.”

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How to help

Those interested in volunteering in the clean up efforts can call 211 or visit