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Above: NCO Disaster Case Manager Sue Saunders (left), family member and fire survivor Katherine Ramos, and Disaster Case Manager Valerie Cox

CalHome Loan Program Continues Funding Home Rebuilds

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Local organizations continue to collaborate on fire rebuilding efforts.

After the devastation of the 2015 Valley Fire, 2016 Clayton fire, and the 2017 Sulphur Fire, Lake County is dotted with fire survivors. While many have been able to secure permanent housing, others still find themselves unable to rebuild. Hammers for Hope, the Hope Crisis Response Network, North Coast Opportunities, Inc. (NCO), private contractors, and modular home companies work in collaboration to support these fire survivors through disaster case management services, home rebuilding, volunteer support, and the CalHome Loan Program.

Katherine Ramos lost her home during the Valley Fire. She is a senior citizen living on a fixed income and was completely uninsured during the time of the fire. Thanks to the CalHome Loan Program and other collaborative partners, Katherine will move into her new Homes Direct manufactured home by late summer.

“The CalHome Loan Program has been a lifesaver,” said Ramos. “I’ve been here 33 years and I’m very grateful to be able to return to my property. If it wasn’t for this opportunity, I would not be getting a house and I’m very thankful. It means I don’t have to continue moving around. I can put my roots down again! After meeting with my case manager, I felt like I had some hope. Otherwise I do not know where I would be.”

There are currently 24 active CalHome loans nearly ready to fund. Approximately 10 prospects are also in the pipeline, which will hopefully result in funded loans later this summer. The CalHome Loan Program is funded through the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). It’s sometimes used to cover the gap between an insurance payout and the cost of rebuilding. The program targets low-to moderate-income households who owned or rented a home destroyed by one of the recent fires. It provides a 30-year deferred loan with 0% interest and is significantly easier to qualify for than a traditional mortgage or loan.

Volunteer rebuilding projects are also being processed. As CalHome loans close, Hope City provides the materials, resources, and volunteer labor needed to oversee the rebuilding process. Hope Crisis Response Network is a nonprofit organization dedicated to disaster recovery and home rebuilding. They have provided recovery assistance in Lake County since September 2015. "Hope City is the name we give our rebuilding projects as we bring together local businesses, organizations, government leaders, and our volunteer teams to bring hope to the community," said Valerie Cox, NCO Disaster Case Manager and Hope City representative. In May 2018, Hope City staff and volunteers completed three homes. There are currently seven homes under construction, with more home dedications set later this summer. Hope City makes home rebuilding possible for low-income clients due to the enormous volunteer labor they contribute, which significantly reduces rebuilding costs. "We are honored to serve in Lake County,” adds Cox. “Our volunteer teams come every week from across the U.S. and Canada and give their time to help Lake County recover. We're moving forward, step by step."

Additionally, one more home was completed by Lake County Contractors at the beginning of March.

Hammers for Hope was awarded a grant from HCD for $4.6 million, and NCO is the program operator. The grant is being drawn-down in small amounts as applications and projects are approved. Funds are still available and new applications are being accepted. “We encourage fire survivors in need of housing to apply for a CalHome Loan,” urges Hammers for Hope Board Member Mark Borghesani. “Funds are still available and it’s our goal to help as many people return home as possible.” Hammers for Hope aims to assist seniors, low-to moderate-income individuals and families, and people with disabilities, in making minor home repairs to improve their comfort and safety. After the fires, Hammers for Hope shifted focus to help those in need of rebuilding. Hammers for Hope is a collaborative effort made possible by the work of local contractors and community volunteers with major funding provided by Calpine Corporation and assistance from Kelseyville Lumber.

“Disaster Case Managers are available to assist fire survivors,” adds NCO Executive Director Patty Bruder. “In partnership with Team Lake County, NCO connects fire survivors to resources. We work with individuals, address their needs, and direct them to the best available resources.”

For more information about the CalHome Loan Program or to complete a preliminary application contact a Disaster Case Manager at 707-994-2910. For more information about Hammers for Hope or to apply for assistance, donate, or volunteer, visit www.hammersforhope.org. Learn more about NCO by calling 707-467-3200 or by visiting www.ncoinc.org.