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Local News

Habitat Completes Home Building in Century

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northescambia.com
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Ten months after work began, Pensacola’s Habitat for Humanity is winding up construction of 16 news homes in Century, replacing some that were leveled by a tornado in February, 2016.

When Habitat Director Tim Evans and his team first got to Century, the one prevailing question was – where to start?

“That is exactly it – it’s just heartbreaking when we first got to the community,” said Evans. “Seeing the amount of damage and so much total destruction on so many homes; it really was kind of tough deciding how to begin.”

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Credit Habitat for Humanity-Pensacola
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Habitat for Humanity-Pensacola
Tim Evans, Executive Director, Habitat for Humanity-Pensacola

On the plus side, much of the debris from the storm had already been cleared from the construction sites. Evans considers the project Habitat’s first major test to show the community development organization is ready to act when a disaster hits.

“For instance, following the floods of 2014, we provided housing for those out-of-town volunteers,” Evans said. “So we’ve been partnering with the community agencies and disaster recovery for a little while. But this was our first really hands-on, taking the lead in the rebuilding part of it.”

Habitat did have plenty of help in building the homes, working with Escambia County agencies and with BRACE -- the Be Ready Alliance Coordinating for Emergencies – where Greg Strader is Director.

“The BRACE team has learned over the last decade-plus, that organizations can do collectively, what no organization nor individual can do alone,” Strader said.

BRACE sprang from Hurricane Ivan in 2004, with projects to harden structures against future storms. Among the plusses, says Strader, are the partnerships that resulted from the teamwork of the Escambia Long-Term Recovery Committee after Ivan and Hurricane Dennis in 2005.

The work cleaning up Century after the tornado involved some unorthodox partnerships – for which BRACE served as a convener and coordinator.

“Habitat for Humanity is not a traditional disaster recovery partner in many areas of the country,” said Strader. “But they were an incredible help after the 2014 floods. That partnership was able to be leveraged in extraordinary ways to accelerate recovery in Century.”

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Credit BRACE
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The 16 homes were built to Escambia County’s current building code. Habitat’s Tim Evans says those codes are revisited when storms such as Andrew, Ivan -- and Irma -- hit Florida. Speaking of Irma, Strader and Evans are both monitoring the situation in south Florida, in case they get the call to help out at some point.

Amid the damage and destruction of the tornado that ripped through Century, Habitat’s Tim Evans says there’s one silver lining for the local chapter.

“It has allowed us to extend into kind of a different type of operation, in doing this specific type of disaster recovery work,” Evans said. “Hopefully, that is something that we’ll keep.”

Pensacola’s Habitat for Humanity is celebrating 35 years of service in 2017. For more information on their work, visit www.pensacolahabitat.org.