"Underserved" communities are recovering from Hurricane Michael even slower than others

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP)- Blue tarps, vacant lots and damaged houses are still a big part of the landscape in communities like Glenwood, Millville and St. Andrews. Locals say not much has changed since Hurricane Michael hit one year ago.

A year after Hurricane Michael and many low income communities and why it takes so long for them to heal. (WJHG/WECP)

"You can look across the street, there are still houses without roofs on them. There's a house next door that needs work on it," said Millville resident Dreena Reed.

Millville Resident Dreena Reed lost her home during the storm, after months of struggling to get assistance from FEMA and other organizations.

She and her family decided to take matters into their own hands.

"It was tough working with FEMA because I was trying to appeal what they were giving me and they said it was just too late so we're trying to do everything on our own," said Reed.

Reed started rebuilding in September but many other families are still dealing with the same damage Michael dealt after the storm with no end in sight.

"These underserved neighborhoods were ill-prepared when the storm came and so it takes longer for recovery to happen," said LEAD Coalition Executive Director Janice Lucas.

Janice Lucas with the LEAD Coalition said many storm victims didn't have renters or homeowners insurance. Now they have to find housing assistance, or leave permanently.

This impact on poor communities is often seen after major disasters, such as when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.

"15 years after Hurricane Katrina the lower 9th ward still is not back," said Lucas. "A lot of people left who were not able to return. I don't wanna see that happen in Glenwood, Millville and St. Andrews."

However, as they improve, that can lead to another problem gentrification.

Gentrification happens when a deteriorated area is rebuilt nicer than it was before. That makes it less affordable, and very difficult for poor families to move back.

" We saw that with Hurricane Katrina. Where they finally got people out after days and weeks. Many of those folks did not return.
"Given that it's happened in other places, it stands to reason gentrification can happen here," said Lucas.

Lucas said the community must come together to care for all residents, regardless of income.

"We together have to work to make that happen. Churches, individual home owners. It's not just about getting our individual properties. It's about helping our neighbors as well," said Lucas.

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