Monday will mark one year since Hurricane Irma struck Southwest Florida - and there's a new effort to help people whose homes are still damaged from the powerful storm. The nonprofit group Team Rubicon is partnering with the Salvation Army of Naples to help 25 to 30 homeowners - who couldn't get enough repair assistance from FEMA or their insurance - repair or rebuild their homes.
To qualify for the program - called Operation Lasting Hope - you must be the home's owner, and you must have lived in it before Irma caused damage. You also need to be unable to afford a market-rate contractor, and agree not to sell the home within five years of rebuilding.
"We're really trying to identify survivors that have unmet needs," said Ashley Jones of the Salvation Army of Naples. "That could be that they've exhausted their resources with FEMA, they've already gone through the Small Business Administration, or they may not have qualified."
Team Rubicon's volunteers and contractors will manage the construction - and supply the elbow grease.
"We started a pilot program in Houston after Hurricane Harvey," said Joseph Kaye of Team Rubicon. "That went so well, we decided to spread it out so we came over here to Collier County."
"It's devastating," said Claudine Snyder, who became homeless after Irma made her mobile home uninhabitable. "People can't even think after they've been displaced. It causes a lot of havoc with families."
Claudine is staying at the St. Matthew's House shelter, and she decided to see if she could benefit from the repair program. She doesn't know yet if she will be chosen for one of the projects, but wants to encourage others who were displaced by Irma to give it a shot.
"It's nice to know...so I can bring back a message of hope," she said.
Anyone interested in seeing if they can benefit from the program should go to the Salvation Army's Disaster Assistance Center at 3420 Tamiami Trail East in Naples. The center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Hurricane Irma survivors are asked to bring a photo ID, FEMA letters, and any applicable insurance damage reports and repair quotes.