Judith Spry woke up on an October morning in 2015 to find the roof of her home caving in. She knew she didn’t have much time.
“I was able to gather up some family photos and some clothes,” Spry said. “My daughter came to pick me up, and I have been living with her since.”
That changed Thursday, as Spry’s new mobile home on Clive Street in Richland County was dedicated as part of Richland County’s Returning Home flood recovery program, which assists residents displaced by the historic floods of 2015.
During the ceremony and ribbon cutting, Spry became emotional, recounting the hard times she has been through. She also expressed appreciation for each person who made her new home possible.
“I can never repay anybody for the work they have done for me,” Spry said. “They have turned a scary situation into something that has made my life wonderful.”
Spry is the first county resident displaced by the historic 2015 flood to receive a new home through the program. The county is in the process of repairing or replacing more than 300 flood-damaged homes with the help of more than $30 million in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. That funding is dispersed through the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery program, which is overseen by Richland County’s Office of Community Development.
In November 2016, HUD approved $23 million in funding, focusing largely on families with low to moderate incomes. Richland County received 569 applications for assistance in the first 30-day intake period that began May 15, 2017.
In February, the program received another $7.2 million federal infusion.
Richland County Council also allocated $1.5 million to flood response efforts, appointed a recovery chief to spearhead the process and established a committee made up of residents who make recommendations about recovery priorities.
“We have gone door to door, making sure people get the help they need,” said Richland County councilwoman Yvonne McBride, who represents Spry and other residents of District 3. “We have made progress, but the journey is far from over.”
Valeria Jackson, Richland County community development manager, said the county hopes to have all current approved applicants in their new homes by 2020.
“It takes about five months to get a home ready,” she said. “My advice for people on the list is to just hang in there.”
Jackson said the department will take another round of applications beginning May 21 for those who may not have heard about it last year.
Richland County Council chairwoman Joyce Dickerson, joined by council members Greg Pearce and Jim Manning, presented an honorary key to Spry, a 70-year resident of Richland County who had looked forward to this day for a long time.
“I’m so nervous and excited, my knees were buckling this morning,” she said.
County flood recovery staff reviewed documents with Spry, kept her up to date on her home’s progress and provided choices for flooring, siding, cupboards and paint colors.
The first thing Spry plans to do is break in her new kitchen.
“My kids have been looking forward to my cooking, so I’m going to have a big dinner with all of them,” she said.