The Pine Ridge reservation now has over 200 new or repaired homes following a disaster that struck in the spring of 2015. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and tribal officials are marking one year of recovery following a unique Presidential Disaster Declaration.
President Obama’s Individual Assistance declaration to Pine Ridge was the first ever made directly to a tribal nation. FEMA then initiated the first permanent housing construction program in the continental United States. FEMA also provided additional direct financial aid to the community.
Brian Hvinden is with FEMA. He says a federal interagency disaster recovery coordination team is working with local government to support long-term recovery. He says the team’s housing focus has received overwhelmingly positive responses.
“Families that have received a new home on several occasions have been so overcome with emotion, which has really been nice for our staff to encounter," says Hvinden.
Hvinden says many Pine Ridge families are in better conditions than prior to the storms. He says some people have running water and electricity for the first time. He says these new accommodations provide greater opportunities for the community.
“One thing we’ve really instilled in the community is hope and a thought that there’s a brighter future available, so I think for us that’s been very overwhelming to think that this mission is well beyond what we traditionally do in disaster recovery," says Hvinden.
Hvinden hopes to utilize individual assistance more often for tribal nations when disaster strikes. He adds that repairs in Pine Ridge should be complete by mid-September.