Camp Fire Recovery
As we near the three-year anniversary of the Camp Fire, we as a community have surmounted big challenges. And while we can look back at the wins in our recovery, the challenges ahead are vast and complex.
NVCF is committed to addressing these challenges with the same resolve and commitment we started with the day the fire ignited.
The journey of recovery for individuals and families is complex and deeply traumatic for so many. The notion that disasters do not discriminate but recovery too often does is no less true than when we started. As the philanthropic hub for this disaster recovery, it became our commitment that we would address the gaps where too many of our most vulnerable community members would fall through. The COVID-19 pandemic added an extra layer of complexity and hardship with large disruption to social services and schools and inflated costs of building. And while the mountain of recovery became a lot steeper for many, NVCF took big steps to address those gaps.
Over the past year, we made significant investments into disaster case management so that those who needed help navigating the complicated web of recovery could have the attention of an experienced case worker who could help identify and access the services each family needed. In all, we funded 79 case managers over the course of the last year. These case workers have been able to get over 333 individuals and families to more stable housing. But the hard truth is there are 1,637 active cases and 100 still waiting to get help from case managers. We are committed to continuing to fund case managers to get that list to zero.
We cannot let added hurdles like the inflation in building costs hinder our vulnerable communities from having access to affordable housing. We continue to partner with our nonprofit housing service providers to address these issues.
And as people finally are in a home, we are committed to create accessible pathways to healing. That is why NVCF launched Thrive, an initiative that brings together agencies and organizations to address the gaps and fragmented path to healing for those impacted by the challenges and disasters in our community.
(through June 30, 2021)
Total Granted Since the Camp Fire
Health & Wellness
Fiscal Year total dollars
(ending June 30, 2021)
Total number of grants in fiscal year
UNMET NEEDS ROUNDTABLE
Hundreds of case managers have been helping thousands of Camp Fire survivors in the nearly three years since the Camp Fire. Those survivors are in various stages of recovery, depending on many variables, including whether they received help from the government, insurance or a PG&E settlement.
A sort of last step for help is the Unmet Needs Roundtable. The Unmet Needs Roundtable brings 11 funding organizations to the table to confer on individual cases.
The largest funder among the 11 organizations is NVCF and the Butte Strong Fund. In 2020, NVCF contributed $2.3 million to hire 65 case managers, $1.7 million to the Unmet Needs Roundtable and $1 million to assistance for an intermediate step called Simple Unmet Needs.
Cases that reach the final step, the Unmet Needs Roundtable, have been in the works for many months and have been heavily vetted by the case managers, who try to find help from government, insurance and lawsuits.
The cases in front of the Unmet Needs Roundtable are people who have fallen through the cracks. They lost a home they owned but don’t qualify for other help. The only way they can return to their property is with the help of the Unmet Needs Roundtable.
Only about 20 households have reached the Unmet Needs Roundtable since the Camp Fire. One is Emilia Erickson, whose family lost their uninsured, off-the-grid Concow home in the fire. She says her paperwork is 4 inches thick and she spent months “jumping through hoops” with no electricity or internet connection, and with four kids to care for. But she did it. The end result is a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home.
“I feel like it’s a miracle that I have a house. I’m super grateful,” she said. “I feel like I don’t deserve it in ways, because everyone deserves a house. Everyone is worthy. And we are getting one. We are feeling blessed. We know how fortunate we are.”
TOWN OF PARADISE PARTNERSHIP
Camp Fire recovery can’t happen without a healthy town government. The Butte Strong Fund was vital to helping Town Hall when funding sources were absent, delayed or uncertain.
Our staff worked closely with town staff to identify areas where Butte Strong Fund grants could help the most.
“In the early days after the fire, while the town was still very much in emergency response, the North Valley Community Foundation stepped in to help with the types of things government agencies don’t fund,” said Town Manager Kevin Phillips. “While FEMA and Cal OES have provided vital assistance, NVCF filled the gaps in what they could offer and helped set the strategic foundation for our long-term recovery. The town would not be as far in recovery as we are today without this foundational support.”
Among the vital grants:
A program granting $2 million to reduce government fees for those rebuilding in the town, which helped homeowners but also helped the town cover its costs.
A grant for the town to develop a long-term visionary plan for rebuilding.
A grant that cost just $24,500 for a road survey but was leveraged into $77.3 million in government funding to rebuild roads
A broadband infrastructure study that should have a similar effect in leveraging funds.
Staffing and project expenses for the town to open the Building Resiliency Center, a one-stop shop for residents seeking help in navigating the rebuilding process.
“As we start to gain perspective on the long view in recovery, NVCF’s contributions in our early years helped stabilize and provide hope,” said Katie Simmons, the town’s disaster recovery director. “There’s a built-in localness and nimbleness to charitable foundations that state and federal agencies don’t have, and we don’t take this for granted. As we negotiate and advocate for the use of government funds made available to all communities experiencing disaster, we’re grateful North Valley Community Foundation and Butte Strong Fund stepped in to help uniquely and consistently as we begin to find our new normal.”
SEPTIC INFRASTRUCTURE GRANT
Trying to rebuild an uninsured or underinsured home lost in a wildfire can feel like a full-time job. Add in the skyrocketing costs of rebuilding and to many homeowners, the hurdles can be staggering.
The Rebuild Paradise Foundation, which was incubated at NVCF, tries to help overwhelmed residents who are navigating the rebuilding maze.
Our Butte Strong Fund has worked closely with Rebuild Paradise to fill funding holes. One such gap was the cost of replacing septic systems before rebuilding can begin. Paradise ridge homes are entirely on septic systems. It’s the largest municipality in California without a sewer system. Those who are rebuilding after the Camp Fire are learning they must spend thousands of dollars to repair or replace the septic system before starting a new home.
Rebuild Paradise Foundation applied to the Butte Strong Fund for a grant totaling $875,000 to help low-income and middle-income families with the septic cost. Households can qualify for a grant of up to $7,500, depending on income. As of June 1, 69 grants had been awarded averaging $3,600 apiece.
“With the rising cost of building, any dollars that can help with construction costs are so appreciated and heartwarming,” said Charles Brooks, executive director of Rebuild Paradise.
Those who are rebuilding learn about the help in many ways — from rebuilding advocates at the town, case managers, social media, real estate agents, word of mouth and other forms of publicity. The fact that low-income and middle-income families are targeted for the help is noted by those who are constantly faced with obstacles.
“We do surveys with the people we helped and there’s a common theme: I can’t believe somebody thought of us,” said Brooks.
BUTTE STRONG FUND COMMITTEE
former Paradise town manager
First 5 Commission director
former Paradise mayor
former publisher of the Paradise Post
former Butte County Office of
developer and philanthropist
former Butte County treasurer-tax collector
board chair, North Valley Community Foundation
second generation owner, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.