‘This is an answered prayer’: Organizations help Letcher County families find home after the floods

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Published: Jan. 27, 2023 at 7:03 PM EST
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WHITESBURG, Ky. (WYMT) - Several organizations joined hands over the last several months, working to give Eastern Kentucky flood victims a place to call home.

Friday, one Letcher County family celebrated its new space with a ceremony that invited the hands and feet that helped them get there.

HOMES, Inc. and Fahe, joined by relief partners from around the region, handed off the keys to a new home as part of the “Housing Can’t Wait” initiative.

The initiative- according to the organizations involved- was born after the July floods, bringing together housing experts from Fahe, HOMES Inc, Housing Development Alliance, Partnership Housing, Appalachia Service Project, Foundation for Appalachia Kentucky, Kentucky Habitat for Humanity, Kentucky Housing Corporation, and USDA Rural Development. The purpose of the initiative is “to address the need for immediate and permanent single-family housing solutions that will help families rebuild their Eastern Kentucky communities.”

“We have the ability and the skills to do this. You’re looking at it right now. Housing can’t wait. We know this,” said Foundation for Appalachia Kentucky COO Kristin Collins.

Arnold and Virginia Weaver lost their home to the floods, only able to save some clothing before watching the waters take everything they knew.

“You know, we are in our 70s. I’m 72 years old and he’s 71. So, we didn’t know what we were going to do. We didn’t have a clue what we were gonna do,” Virginia said. “We go up on the hill behind the garage and just watch everything. Water go above the windows in the house. Lost… we lost everything.”

After working with friends to stay in a rental for some time, the couple wondered how they would move forward- neither excited about the idea of starting over.

“HOMES made a way for us,” said Virginia.

Virginia’s son told her about HOMES and the house that was constructed, waiting for a family. From there, working with the partners, the couple was able to get into the space at a more affordable rate, taking off some of the burden the waters left behind.

“So, we’ve got our work cut out for us. But we have the right kind of partners. That’s what we do on a regular basis. This is how we get the work done,” said Pam Johnson, Fahe SVP of Innovation.

Another family, Terry and Brenda Morgan, also found shelter through a HOMES build a few doors down from the Weavers. Everyone involved said it was a blessing from God to have a place to call home.

“We hadn’t heard anything about HOMES before this. We didn’t know what they did. But we know now,” said Arnold. ““Prayers have been answered. And if you don’t believe it, this is an answered prayer.”

The families said they did not know where to turn until the community grabbed their shoulders and helped lead the way. Now, they hope to make new memories in their new homes for years to come.

“People’s been good. People’s been so good,” said Virginia. “I’m not going anywhere. Letcher County is my home.”

The initiative has committed to building at least 100 homes- 60 are already complete or in progress.