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Catholic Charities adds March floods to disaster assistance program

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Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Nashville has added the March 28 flooding that killed six people in Nashville to the list of recent disasters it is responding to with a variety of services to help victims.

“We’re currently working with 42 households displaced from their housing” by the March 28 flooding, said Heather Mencke, short term services manager for Catholic Charities.

“Most of the damage was done in South Nashville” along Nolensville Pike, Mencke said. The Harding Place Condominiums and CityVue Apartments “were particularly hard hit,” she said.

Catholic Charities helped those forced out of their homes to stay at a hotel “while they figured out where to go next,” Mencke said.

“Some have moved back into their pre-disaster address, so we’re helping with insurance deductibles,” Mencke said. “Some were not able to move back into their pre-disaster address, so we help them with deposits and first month rent for new housing and moving costs.”

Her office has also helped two people pay for car repairs so they could continue to get to their jobs, Mencke said.

The funds for helping the flooding victims are coming from the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee and Catholic Charities USA.

The tight housing market in the Nashville area makes it even harder to find new housing for disaster victims, Mencke said. “It’s definitely difficult, especially when there are so many survivors also looking.”

Catholic Charities is still helping victims of the Christmas Day bombing in downtown Nashville.

“We’re currently working with 204 households,” Mencke said, including downtown residents, employees who lost their jobs, and businesses that had to shut down. “We’re helping with financial assistance, rent, mortgage, utilities, phone bills, car payments, car insurance.”

“Some of them are renting or staying with other friends. Some are in hotels or Airbnbs,” Mencke said. “It took most several weeks or months to find new housing.”

Catholic Charities can work with the bombing victims who lost their job until they find a new one, Mencke said. “There really is no limit to what we can provide.”

About 100 victims of the bombing also are receiving counseling services from Catholic Charities, a service that is also available to the flooding victims, she said.

The assistance could be long-term for some victims. “They’re estimating … that most businesses won’t be up and running for two or three years,” Mencke said.

The funding for the bombing victims includes federal grants through the Tennessee Office of Criminal Justice Programs. “Right now, the contract has been extended through the end of September,” Mencke said. “The Office of Criminal Justice Programs is applying for an extension that will go through May 2023.”

Funds are also coming from donors through the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee and United Way of Greater Nashville, Mencke said.

The area has been hit by a series of disasters including the March 2020 tornados, the COVID pandemic, the Christmas bombing and the March 2021 flooding.

Catholic Charities Executive Director Judy Orr and Catholic Charities USA “realized Nashville is prone to disasters,” Mencke said. “We wanted to have a robust program that could respond and recover with our community. We’re focusing on being that agency that can do that.”

Catholic Charities is part of two groups of agencies that are responding to disasters, she said: the Long Term Recovery Group and Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster.

“We’re winding up our tornado services, so that’s a good sign,” Mencke said. Catholic Charities is referring people still being affected by the pandemic to other agencies that can help, she added.

People who want to donate to the disaster financial assistance efforts should contact Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee at cfmt.org or United Way at unitedwaygreaternashville.org. Those interested in volunteering with flood repairs should contact Hands On Nashville at hon.org, Mencke said.

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