Fighting Loneliness During the Pandemic

by Helen Robinson, LCSW, PLLC

As the days on social lockdown continue, more of us will begin to experience the impact of social isolation. Loneliness, according to a recent article in the Washington Post, can be as bad or worse for our physical wellbeing than smoking or obesity.  Loneliness is also a challenge to our emotional, mental, and spiritual health.

On one hand, more Americans are interacting through social media.  On the other hand, fewer Americans report having a trusted person with whom they can confide.  With the new rules about social distancing and the abrupt cessation of most of our daily social routines, what can we do?

Social Closening

The antidote to loneliness is social closening.  Here’s a new term to add to our vocabulary!  We can describe social closening as the act of closing gaps between us and others through intentional reaching out to others as persons.  Ironically, now that our routines are disrupted and we are stuck at home, we have more opportunity to pursue new behavior. Now that we are living in a time of social distancing, we can practice social closening in new and creative ways!

Social research suggests that relationships are as good for the immune system as exercise.  We also know that social connectedness has as big an impact on mortality as quitting smoking.  From a mental health perspective, we know that experiencing connection, meaning, and purpose are essential elements of wellbeing.     

So, what can we do while we are practicing safe  “social distancing”? Here is a short checklist of possibilities for you to consider:

  • Make a list of friends and family with whom you haven’t had contact in awhile and reach out.
  • Make a list of those in your neighborhood or church or community organization that you think might enjoy some contact.
  • Make more voice-to-voice phone calls; use face time or skype more often.
  • Spend more quiet prayer time in the good company of your God.  Use a favorite song or words from sacred text to help you.
  • Cook a few extra servings of a nutritious comfort meal, and do some front-porch deliveries to neighbors who aren’t cooking or shopping much.
  • Find a creative way to use your talents.  If you sew, join the ranks of others who are making extra face masks to help.
  • Reach out to the “coordinators” and “connectors” in the community you know; in all likelihood they are keeping up with emerging unmet needs of those in our community and will offer you new ideas for helping.
  • Make a list of those you know who are the helpers–those who are going the extra mile.  Reach out every day to one of these helpers to offer a personal thank-you!

COVID-19 Response Documents and Links

For updated information on COVID-19 please visit the following links:

From The North Carolina Office of EMS – Please follow this link https://www.ncems.org/covid-19-response.php for the latest information on the COVID-19 response.

FROM NC 2-1-1 https://www.nc211.org/coronavirus-covid-19

From the CDChttps://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html

From NC Department of Public Health website at https://epi.dph.ncdhhs.gov/cd/diseases/2019ncov.html .

The North Carolina Division of Public Health has established a call line at 1-866-462-3821 to address general questions about coronavirus from the public. In the event of an emergency, please call 9-1-1.

New Hope Volunteer Village Update

Update on New Hope Village in New Bern

The New Hope Village is nearly completed and ready to receive volunteer teams! The Neuse Forest Presbyterian Church has converted a storm-damaged educational building into a hosting facility for work teams coming from outside the area to spend the night. Over 5000 hours of volunteer time by hundreds of volunteers from near and far have contributed to the success of the conversion. Here are some pictures from our journey to re-purposing the building.
Without the generous support of the churches of New Hope Presbytery, PDA and countless individuals this project could not have been completed.

This new facility NOW starts to host hundreds of volunteers to help rebuild the homes and lives of those who, in many cases, have lost everything in Hurricane Florence. Our opening the Village enables Presbyterians and communities from across the country to come help. If you want to bring a work team, contact the PDA Call Center at (866) 732-6121 or pda.callcenter@pcusa.org .

Thank you all for the many blessings, volunteer hours, prayers and support! 
Grace and peace,
John Robinson

CCDRA Hurricane Florence Update

It’s been almost a year and a half since Hurricane Florence devastated our community. Despite the hard work of countless volunteers, many families are still displaced or living in unrepaired homes.

Craven County Disaster Recovery Alliance and other disaster recovery partners are coordinating to assist as many families as possible in hopes of turning their damaged houses back into homes as soon as possible. Contact us to see how your church, family, friends and neighbors can help families still recovering.

New FEMA map adds numerous properties to the flood zone

Source: New Bern Sun Journal, by Bill Hand
Date: January 26, 2020

The floodplains, they are a-changing.

Both Onslow and Craven counties are seeing changes in FEMA floodplain maps that will take effect by June 19. The maps define storm surge and other flooding possibilities in the area. Among other counties affected are Dare, Hyde, Beaufort, Pamlico and Pitt counties, all set to go into effect in June.

The maps use updated hydraulic analysis and models to determine the chance of flooding of different areas during serious storms. On the maps, North Carolina is divided into regions designated as AE, VE, X and Shaded X: if you fall into either of the first two categories, your home or business is in an area with a high likelihood of flooding; if you fall in X or shaded X you are either out of the floodplain, or in a plain that has a much lower chance of flooding in any given storm.

And, in a nutshell, if you live in an AE or VE area and have a mortgage on your home, you’re probably going to be required to buy flood insurance. It also means that you’ll have to jump some possibly expensive hoops if you want to build or do any significant additions.

There are terms to learn as we continue in this article: Base Flood Elevation (BFE) for example. To understand the maps, you have to understand that this is what they determine. BFE is the expected elevation above sea level at which a particular property can expect to flood. In most of Craven County, for instance, that level is considered 11 feet. So, if you live on a property that is 6 feet above sea level, then you’re going to want to find a way to raise your structure so that the floor and any mechanics attached to it (say, duct work and sewer pipes) is 5 feet higher if you want to avoid falling into that expected flood elevation range.

BFE is not actually uniform across the entire map: some areas, such as narrow rivers, are likely to have higher flooding than others. Angie Manning, Onslow County Land Use Administrator said that many areas in the Onslow maps aren’t so much whether you’re suddenly in a flood zone; rather it is the amount of BFE. “There are some places that may stay in a flood zone, but go from 7 to 11 feet,” she said.

Then there’s all those mysterious letters: AE, VE, X and Shaded X – the latter sounding more like something you’d find slinking about in a comic book rather than anything as droll as a FEMA map.

•AE: These properties have, annually, a 1 percent chance of flooding. Most hurricanes won’t result in this happening, but one with a lot of rain, or that approaches in just the right direction and under the right circumstances – like 2018′s Florence – are going to turn your first floor into a wading pool – or worse.

•VE: This is AE on testosterone. Think of as standing for Velocity, Manning said. Everything that applies to AE applies here as well. But it also means the area is prone to heavier wave action and, probably, higher BFE elevations. The added force of waves was illustrated in 2018 with Florence when rising waters tore whole porches from houses and burst open doors despite their being deadbolted along Broad Street in New Bern.

• X: According to FEMA models, buildings here are in little danger of flooding: 0.2 percent per year.

• Shaded X: Your buildings and property are reasonably safe – Shaded X is kind of a gray area between AE and X.

In the last two cases, no flood insurance is required.

In the past the maps were broken up into “100-year storm” and “500-year storm” areas, but FEMA has changed the term because, according to Manning, the term is misleading. “People think it happened in 2018, so it’ll be another hundred years (before a similar storm strikes again),” she said. “But it could happen again next year.”

You might feel like you’ve gotten a raw deal if you are suddenly in an AE or VE zone but, according to Craven County Planning Planner II Jason Frederick, it’s good news, in a way. “I think with the flood maps, what you have is new and better data that comes out.” FEMA “tries to fine tune the flood boundaries, if you will.” He said that FEMA conducted 600 synthetic storms to determine how storms would affect different areas.

He noted that Hurricane Florence had nothing to do with the how the maps were made – in fact, the maps have been in existence for a couple of years. However, he said, Florence reflected the accuracy of the new maps. “If you were to overlay Florence with the new flood maps, it would be very accurate,” he said. “Raleigh is to be commended.”

Those in the AE and VE areas could face more problems than just having to build new first floors at higher elevations or adding insurance: Onslow County Commissioner Jack Bright said the changes “really devastates these property owners… It causes people to have their houses and heat pumps raised,” he added, to match FEMA floodplain guidelines. If new structures are built, they will have to be raised – or the owners may not be able to build at all.

Bright pointed out that many areas that are newly labeled as floodplain are waterfront. “Because it’s a floodplain property, it becomes less valuable and the city loses a lot of tax base,” he said.

Bright said that, in some cases, FEMA refuses to allow homeowners to rebuild in some flood zone areas. “There are properties from Florence where FEMA has bought the properties through the county, then condemned the property as far as the building, and stated the property can never be built on again,” he said. Some residents in Swansboro, he added, were forced to relocate.

One realtor, Steve Tyson of New Bern, however, said he has not seen a major change in real estate prices. “It’s going to impact real estate, but it’s not going to be the end of the world,” he said. “If people like the neighborhood and the house is priced well, they’ll buy it.

“I have sold houses in both Fairfield and River Bend that flooded and sold them after they were fixed up,” he added. They sold at approximately the same value that they were before. I thought it would have a big effect, but it wasn’t so much.”

Tyson’s biggest concern is for the people who will be required to purchase flood insurance, but cannot afford it.

Flood insurance can be costly. But even so, county planners as a rule advise buying it, even if you’re not forced to – and even in you’re in a Shaded X or X area.

The reason? Floods can’t read.

“The maps are just a statistical probability of flooding,” Randy Mundt of the N.C. Floodplain Mapping Program stated in an article recently written by Michelle Wagner for the Carolina Public Press. “Mother Nature does not read our flood map, and we know that… when we have more rain than what we’re predicting, you’re going to see flooding outside of where we map.”

“A flood’s never going to follow the map,” Frederick said. “It’s going to do what a flood’s going to naturally do. Water’s always going to run down hill.”

“What people sometimes don’t know is, even if your home is not in that (flood) zone, you can still get insurance. And the state is pushing for people to get flood insurance.”

Shawn Black, who owns Black’s Insurance in New Bern, said there are differing flood insurance policies, with some naturally more expensive than others, depending on the condition and value of the home, where it is located, and how it meets local codes. An option for flood insurance in X and Shaded X areas is preferred flood insurance, which costs around $500 annually, though the price rises over the years.

Most flood insurance, she said, covers up to $250,000 on a house and $100,000 on its contents.

As to the map changes, “People tend to think the sky is falling, and we want them to talk to us and research it, not freak out,” she said. Black noted that anyone worried or interested in insuring their property should attend a public meeting scheduled by the Neuse River Region Area Realtors (NRRAR) at the Carolina Colours pavilion, New Bern, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on April 7. A representative of the North Carolina State Hazard Mitigation office will give an overview of rules and options.

Frederick said that the new map has made significant changes in much – but not all – of Craven County. No houses were added to or removed from the flood plain in Cove City, Dover or Vanceboro. In unincorporated areas of the county, more properties were removed (438) than added (331): a net difference of 107.

Other areas found more properties being added, however:

• River Bend, 61 were added and none removed.

• Trent Woods, 73 were added and 29 removed.

• Havelock, 13 were added and four removed.

• Bridgeton, 53 were added and none removed.

The biggest change is to New Bern were 1,082 buildings were added and only one removed.

The best way to find out your status, Frederick said, is to access the maps online.

A good source for this is https://fris.nc.gov/firs. “It’s fairly user friendly,” Frederick said. Click the map of North Carolina and enter your full address in the upper left corner. Shaded yellow areas are Shaded X; AE is shaded blue; VE is shaded green. On the right side of the window will be a button titled “Effective.” That is the current map. To see how you fare come June, click that button to show “Preliminary.”

The planning office can also be reached at 252-636-2146.

Craven County Public Hearing on use of Federal Disaster Mitigation Funds

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oct. 3, 2019

State to hold public hearings on use of federal disaster mitigation funds – Hearing scheduled for Craven county

RALEIGH−ReBuild NC, the state’s long-term disaster recovery program, will hold a public hearing in CRAVEN COUNTY to receive public comment and input on a draft action plan for spending $168 million in Community Development Block Grant–Mitigation funding allocated to North Carolina by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Under federal guidelines, the funds must be used to implement community projects that strengthen local infrastructure and reduce future losses in areas impacted by hurricanes Matthew and Florence.

“These funds will help communities coordinate local planning activities and projects that will make them more resilient in the face of future storms,” said Governor Roy Cooper. “It’s important for people to have an opportunity to weigh in and learn how communities can rebuild smarter and stronger.”

Interactive sessions and presentations planned for the hearing will include information on what mitigation is and how the HUD mitigation funding may be used. People who attend will also have an opportunity to provide public comments and ask questions of state mitigation experts. Craven County’s Public hearing date and location follows:

Craven County
6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16
Grover C. Fields Middle School
Performing Arts Center
2000 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard
New Bern, NC 28560

At the hearing, doors will open at 6 p.m. and presentations will begin at 6:30 p.m. People who would like to provide public comments will be given three minutes to speak. Those wishing to speak are encouraged to bring a written copy of their comments to the hearing. Written public comments may also be submitted by email to publiccomments@rebuild.nc.gov or by mail to P.O. Box 110465, Durham, NC 27709. Anyone needing special accommodations at a public hearing should call 984-833-4344 or send an email to: info@rebuild.nc.gov. For additional information, please visit the ReBuild NC website.

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CRISIS CLEANUP

Homeowners with hurricane damage are invited to contact Crisis Cleanup at 844-965-1386 to report the damage, so responders can help.

Here are current statistics. If there are reports in your county, you can register with Crisis Cleanup at http://crisiscleanup.org to receive the data and mark the jobs complete. This is a solution to the old problem “We know there are damages, but where are they?”

We are here to help!

We know that many of you are preparing for the potentially damaging effects of Hurricane Dorian and we want you to know that we’re here to help. Our Client Services Coordinators are available to you for recovery assistance. If you or someone you know needs help, please call us at 252-571-2976.

Following a disaster getting immediate relief to impacted individuals is important. The next step is to connect survivors to recovery resources to help them rebuild and regain a “new normal”. For the long term recovery group, CCDRA needs to be ready to transition from relief to the recovery phase.

We need to know the communities hit the hardest and their needs. WE NEED YOUR HELP! If you are in a community that is hit hard, please forward the following information about your neighborhood to us at ccdra.ltrg@gmail.com

1. Name
2. Address
3. Email & Phone
4. Community in which you live

If internet is not available, please call 252-571-2976!

Please keep in mind that Craven County Disaster Recovery Alliance is not an emergency response group but a Long Term Recovery group. We will not provide immediate, emergency help, but rather a resource for relief and recovery after the storm.

Airbnb Open Homes

Airbnb Launches Open Homes Program For Those Affected By Hurricane Dorian – – Airbnb has launched its Open Homes Program https://www.airbnb.com/openhomes/disaster-relief to help displaced residents and relief workers deployed to the southeast region impacted by Hurricane Dorian. The program recruits hosts who are willing and able to provide free housing to displaced residents, and disaster relief workers in the activation area.