Welcome to Louisiana Lefty, a podcast about politics and community in Louisiana, where we make the case that the health of the state requires a strong progressive movement fueled by the critical work of organizing on the ground. Our goal is to democratize information, demystify party politics, and empower you to join the mission because victory for Louisiana requires you. I'm your host Lynda Woolard. On this episode, we returned to the original theme of season six, living our values, as we speak with the wife and husband team, Liz McCartney and Zach Rosenberg of SBP. Formerly known as the St. Bernard Project, locally grown SBP now works on disaster recovery throughout the country. Back in our first interview of this season, we started this conversation around the individual work being done in our state that fills in the gaps where our government and our legislation either falls short or actively harm Louisianans. I call this the third leg of the stool of the progressive movement that begins with number one, campaigns to elect candidates who can bring about big sweeping change. Then continues with number two, advocacy work to educate and lobby elected officials who need a push to do the right thing. And as rounded out by number three, the individual work through nonprofits and progressive businesses that help Louisianans who don't have the luxury of waiting for those changes we're fighting for through those first two avenues. We took a couple of detours from this season's theme because we're in an election year and wanted to visit with some of our great candidates. And then the party politics of 2023, once again, required us to release some quick bonus episodes to educate on opportunities for change we have coming up real soon. More immediately, if you listen to this episode right as it's released, you'll still have an opportunity to weigh in on the November 18th Louisiana general elections and it's so important that you do. But the catastrophic results of our October 14th primary elections have already truly underscored the strong need we're going to have in Louisiana over the next several years for these heroic, nonpartisan organizations, like SBP, that do critical work for the people of our state. Liz McCartney and Zach Rosenberg, thank you so much for joining me on Louisiana Lefty
Hy Lynda. Great to see you.
Well, I always start the show with how I know my guests and we met back in 2007. When I was doing social media for the New Orleans Shell Shockers, the local Premier Development League team for soccer, and Gary Ostrowski was one of the owners and he was also president of the local United Way at the time. And I asked him - because I had just started working with my family foundation, the Woolard Family Foundation - I had asked him for a good group that was rebuilding and you were the first group you mentioned. At that time, you were called the St. Bernard project. So we connected all the way back then and the fun thing was the soccer players went and actually rebuilt homes, soccer players from all over the world went and rebuilt homes down in St. Bernard and elsewhere in New Orleans. I was also working with the Obama people back in the day so we had folks from the Obama campaign come in to rebuild homes with y'all. So we go way back at this point.
Yes we do. I was just thinking, Lynda, when we first met, we met outdoors at a Shell Shocker game, I don't think it was at Tad Gormley, but it was somewhere out there. And you couldn't have been more committed to people, it was so clear from that first discussion that you cared about the people of Louisiana and their humanity. And you keenly understood that without a clear path home, they'd be pushed beyond their breaking point. So thanks for being a friend and partner for a long, long time.
Well, thanks for that memory. And look, tell me the origin story of how y'all ended up here, what you were doing before you came here? And maybe that's a Liz question, I guess, maybe she needs to start with that answer. But what were you doing, Liz, and what brought you here to work in Louisiana?
Thank you, Lynda, again, for all the incredible support and partnership and just awareness raising over the years, it's really been such a pleasure to get to work alongside you. And thanks for your deep commitment and investment. So we had been to New Orleans a bunch of times before Katrina, and really had some very fond memories from Jazz Fest, and Mardi Gras, and other trips to the city. And when Katrina happened, we did what so many other tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people did and said, "I'm gonna go help out." And we came down. At the time, we were living in DC, Zack was a criminal defense attorney and I worked with a local nonprofit organization that provided after-school and summer programming for kids. And we expected to be in New Orleans for a couple of weeks volunteering and then head back home. And, you know, I think what really captured our hearts and our spirits were the people. To this day, I think about those, like, initial weeks and it still makes me emotional thinking about, like, meeting people who were, for the first time in their lives, were waiting in line for food and just really didn't have a clear path home. And they told us their stories about their community and the strength of their community, which was having entire extended families within a few blocks, which post-Katrina, as we all know, ended up being one of the most challenging things because nobody had anybody to rely on anymore. And so people were just in a really challenging situation. And because of those friends that we made, way back when, we decided that we would move to New Orleans and try and help in some small way. So that's sort of how we started our journey into New Orleans.
Liz, the mythology is that there wasn't enough authorization in New Orleans to go start helping with some of the homes there so you ended up in St. Bernard. And again, the mythology is that you were there basically with a shovel, shoveling muck out of homes. Do I have that right?
We ended up in St. Bernard, very fortunately. We ended up there because there was an organization there that answered an email. I sent out a bunch of emails and this one group was the only one who answered my email. So we went there, not really realizing, like, that there was a big difference. We just sort of thought we were going to the New Orleans area and then very quickly learned that, you know, like every community, you know, people have a sense of pride and ownership of being from this specific neighborhood or this specific place. And so we found ourselves just across the parish line, in St. Bernard, helping out there. And when we started, we were cooking food, and talking to people. And unbeknownst to us, you know, making lifelong friendships, and learning what was even more special about the region then all of the great memories that we had from previous events and good times, which was, you know, people who really cared about people and took good care of each other and took tremendous pride in their, in their homes in their communities. I don't know that the myth is quite accurate, Lynda, but it's kind of close. Yeah. There's some parallel there.
Well, and you are a humble person, which is part of what's so beautiful about you. So you probably wouldn't mention this. But you did win the very first CNN Heroes Award in 2008 for your work here, helping the Southeast Louisiana recover. So I just wanted to mention that. But from those humble beginnings, you become sort of a well oiled machine that not only has worked in the New Orleans area, you've worked in disaster recovery all across Louisiana, from Katrina, Laura, and Ida. You've worked on hurricanes in Florida, hurricanes Ian, and I think you're working on Idalia, if I'm saying that right. In Puerto Rico after Maria, Texas after Harvey. You've done tornado recovery up in Joplin when that happened. So you've really turned this very focused thing in this one small area to something that's operating across the country.
It was the people who drove the creation of SBP in the very beginning, and it's the people we meet who drive the growth and expansion today. When we first got to St. Bernard, six months after the storm, I'd done a ton of poverty work for my whole life. But it blew us away to see people who had achieved the American Dream, they were homeowners, they were independent, they were autonomous. These were proud people. You know, they had worked hard, they had done the right thing. And they were living in attics and garages and cars. And it blew us away that they had to be staring into this absolute abyss of uncertainty. And all they wanted, it was the best of Louisiana, Lynda, all they wanted was to be home near their families. And when Liz was... I haven't thought about this guy for probably 15 years. When we tell the origin story, you know, we talk about feeding people, but I remember Liz talked about people looking for clothes. And so we're sleeping in tents, at emergency communities. We're sleeping in the back. And it was the only place open in St. Bernard Parish for food, and it became a community center, in essence. And I remember this guy, Mike, and I forget his wife's name, and they had like a six month old baby. And he was telling us how he was always the one donating to church, he was always helping other people. and he was in tears, going through piles of clothes because he couldn't keep his kids warm. I mean, think of that, in America, the guy who had a job, a well paying job, after disaster - and he lived in a non mandatory flood insurance zone - was searching for clothes to really keep... because, you know, in Louisiana in February, it's cold, it's 40 degrees, he was worried about, like, his child's survival. And so it was those lessons from early on that taught us what has to matter in disaster recovery isn't fidelity to model, it isn't system, you know, fidelity to how it's always been done, it's outcomes for clients. And I'll tell one other story from these early days that molded SBP to what it is today, it stays with us all the time. We met this gentleman named Mr. Andre, he was a World War Two veteran, a proud guy. He had the pins in the hat, he walked with a walker, but he would not let anyone else carry his food tray. Mr. Andre was an iron worker or a steel worker, but he was a proud working man his entire life. And he'd tell us about that. One day at breakfast he broke down sobbing. And once he pulled it together he told us why. It was because every day after breakfast, he would drive this little blue Ford Ranger to the FEMA lot, he'd ask for a FEMA trailer and a human being would tell him, "I'm sorry, I can't help you." He'd come back for lunch, he'd then go back to FEMA and ask for a FEMA trailer and maybe the same human being, maybe different one, would say, "I'm sorry, I can't help you." He'd then have dinner and he'd drive his Ford Ranger back to the FEMA lot and he'd sleep there because it was a government place, even though these people were saying 'no' to him. as a veteran, he felt safe there. And he said that it dawned on him that he felt like the world had forgotten him. And so we keep this notion of Mr. Andre with us because when people come to work at SBP... the folks working at FEMA, whoever those human beings are who told Mr. Andre, "I can't help you?" Sure, they're great people, but what they did was they checked their values at the door. And when someone said, "Here's the policy," they didn't challenge it, they rode with it. And at SBP, you know, if we're going to make the system responsive for people, if we're going to prioritize people and results, we need our team to come in and bring their values to the door to make our entity and to make the disaster resilience and recovery system in America better.
Do y'all happen to know how many homes you've rebuilt in the New Orleans area? If you don't know, that's fine.
1000s, Lynda. Plus over 135 rental units.
And do you still get calls from folks about this area?
Oh, yeah. I mean, Lynda, we're on track to rebuild over 70 houses in the New Orleans area this year. Now, some of those are from the storms that have come in the past, some of it is creation of affordable housing. But there are still people who were not served by the Road Home. Their mortgage companies kept the FEMA payments, if there were any, or the insurance payments, if there were any. And there were serious and still are serious challenges with FEMA. So let me be clear, while SBP is expanded to other parts of the country, and we now deliver other services to ideally prevent the need from people humbling themselves and going on to a nonprofit group they'd never met, we want to prevent the need for that. The headquarters of SBP is and always will be in New Orleans.
When I first met you you were relying quite a bit on volunteer labor, volunteers coming in to help rebuild the homes. Are you still using that as your method?
Yeah, we use a blend. And depending on the community that we're working in, as well. So in New Orleans, we're definitely still working with volunteers, and we're so grateful for all of their support. And then we also hire local contractors, you know, for some phases of construction. And then some jobs, we might use more or less just sort of, depending on the funding sources that we have available, and availability of people. So it's... and we had to get really creative during the pandemic, as well, you know, as there were many restrictions and volunteer numbers within SBP and in lots of other places dipped pretty considerably just because of all sorts of restrictions. And so volunteers have been, and we hope will continue to be, a really important part of our work and mission, along with AmeriCorps members. We've had, you know, 1000s of AmeriCorps members serve with SBP over the years. So a lot of different hands on many different client's homes.
If I can say one thing about volunteers, and especially on a podcast like yours, and especially in the moment that America is in right now. This is the real America. You know, part of what I think hooked me and Liz from the beginning, when we saw the possibility of getting people home. You remember those early days after Katrina. There was no American demographic, there was no political persuasion, who didn't come down to help in Louisiana. No one wants it. You know, "I'd love to help you, but how do your clients vote? I'd love to help you, but how do they feel on these social issues?" And so we think that continuing to work with volunteers is healing for America. Still, in this time, no one is asking, "Hey, I want to help, but the people I help have to fit my lens of who's politically aligned with me." In fact, it's the inverse. And we've seen, through proximity, learning. And so we're still working with volunteers, it's essential. I think more than ever. And Liz nailed it with AmeriCorps members, there is no more efficient American program than AmeriCorps today, we have every demographic serving people who, most of the time, worship, look different, and are very different from the AmeriCorps members themselves. And to me, that's a massive strength.
I love that. And y'all have always been very creative in your rebuild. You've had branded weeks, I remember there was, like, a 'nun's build,' where you had nuns coming and building. I participated in a 'women's week,' where we had women recruited to come down and build. And one of the things I love is that you train the volunteers. A thing that sticks out in my mind is you would tell people to approach it like they were helping rebuild not just their parents home, but their grandparents home, because you take so much more care when you're caring for your grandparents. And I thought that was a really lovely way of framing it.
Lynda, I love that you still remember that... oh, that's so touching! Well, one of our core values at SBP, still to this day, is what we call the 'mom rule.' And it's in essence, the same thing, like, we want to treat our clients the way we would want someone to treat our own loved ones. So that has stuck with us all these years. And I think for a lot of our colleagues and team members, it's one of the values that really resonates the most. So I'm glad it stuck with you too.
Yeah! And you were talking about cooking and we've been talking about rebuilding for folks who are in disaster recovery spaces, but you quickly figured that you'd need to look at mental health issues for people. You started working with veterans and formerly incarcerated people. I think you started looking at maybe even helping people finance stuff that they weren't able to come up with that maybe you weren't personally rebuilding, but that a little finance help might help them get over the hump. So you've been able to play in a lot of spaces since getting involved with this.
So you remember when we had the center for wellness and mental health? You know, what's weirder than a lawyer and a teacher starting a construction company, Lynda, a volunteer construction company? The only thing weirder is that volunteer construction company starting a licensed mental health clinic. But here's what we saw, we saw families, their house was done, and they wouldn't move home, or the entire family of six or seven would move into one bedroom. The pop psych theory was, you know, when your house is done, when you're back spread out living in it, that's supposed to mean everything's okay. But everything wasn't okay. Church wasn't there, school wasn't there, family is still not next door. It looked in some parts of Louisiana, and still some today in New Orleans, pretty rough. And so folks, like, they had suffered, they were traumatized. And we had to do something about it, like... what good's a house if the people living inside of there, like, are still in torment? And so Senator Landrieu who, I know, is a dear friend of yours, and we adore her, she's role model for me on every level, got some federal support for us to partner with LSU. And for a time being we had the only licensed child psychiatrist. We had psychologists, psychiatrists, and medical fellows who were booked up every hour of the day for about two and a half years. And we ended up retiring the clinic when the local capacity came back again because we didn't want to compete. But people needed to process and, you know, as parents, like, you're only as happy as your most unhappy kid. And there were some kids who were deeply, deeply traumatized. So I'm thankful for Senator Landrieu, thankful for our friends at LSU, and I'm thankful for the board that put clients and outcomes first rather than, "Well, you haven't done it before." And that is another, like, core value of SBP, well, shit no one's done new things before ever, and it doesn't mean you can do it willy nilly, but people needed mental health services. Veterans were coming last. You talked about our veterans work, Lynda. I mean, throughout the country, we have seen American veterans who would say, "Nah, I'm okay. Someone has it worse than me." And then you'd see what they were living in... pretty dicey situations. And so we had a veterans core program with AmeriCorps. We started the I Got Your Back Fund that is still running today. It needs more funding, but it's designed... we found that it was easier for veterans to say, "You know, I need the help," when there was funding directly for them. They didn't feel like they were taking from anyone else. That's a core theme for SBP from the beginning, we understand the needs by doing the work with people, and then we build scaled solutions, and ideally, system change to prevent the harms in the first place.
Thanks for unpacking some of that Zack. It's good to reflect on some of those solutions that we had so long ago. And today, we're sort of continuing to think, Lynda, about disasters not just in the recovery space, but what can we do beforehand in terms of preparedness and mitigation. How can we be effective right after, and then what our long term commitments look like to a community that's struggling to rebuild, oftentimes, for many, many years afterwards. And people in Louisiana know, from firsthand experience, just how long it can take for some households and some neighborhoods to rebuild. So we continue to provide rebuilding services after. Right now we're in about a half dozen communities in the US and in the Caribbean. But we also think about our work really differently. And I'll give you two examples that we're really excited and proud of. One is a program that we call The Resilience And Recovery Fellows. And right now we have two fellows in Louisiana, one in Lake Charles, one in Terrebonne parish, and then a third in Eastern Kentucky. And they're working in communities, helping those communities access some of the federal funding that's now available for mitigation. So really trying to prevent, you know, or minimize the impact of future perils on the communities where they live. And so they're from the community, they're on the ground, working in the community, and then they're supported by folks on the SBP team who have a lot of experience either securing federal dollars and/or running large-scale federally funded programs. So it's this great sort of mix of local knowledge and expertise, and other expertise. And so far, those fellows in those three communities? Our goal was to have them access $5 million in two years for their communities, and they have far surpassed that. It's something like 20 times that amount already, and we're not even at the end of the first year. So it's working and it's working really well. And hopefully what it's doing is it's preventing the need for our services or groups like SBP down the line. So that's one that we're really excited about. And then a second is, - and we launched the pilot of this in Louisiana this past year after Hurricane Ida - is creating a fund, and we call it the Recovery Acceleration Fund, that allows households to access reimbursement after a disaster. So if you're uninsured or underinsured, you might get a little bit of money from FEMA, and then, if you're lucky, you might get a grant from the state. And that grant comes with federal disaster aid money that the state gets. And oftentimes it takes a long time for people to get that funding. And then some people get support from an organization like SBP or some of the other great groups that are in the state and in the city. But there are a lot of folks who are just waiting for a really, really long time. What the state does offer is it allows people to get reimbursed. So if you can pay your own way, then the state will refund you for what you spent, which is great for people who have means, but for people who don't, they can't access that. So we set up a fund where we, in essence, loan people money, and then the fund gets reimbursed. And so they don't have, you know, out of pocket expense, and they're able to have their homes repaired a lot faster than if they were waiting for some of the other alternative solutions. So now we're in the process of launching that program and that fund in Florida and then continuing to take it to other locations, too. And the hope is that, you know, we build enough interest that eventually sort of the market takes over. And this is a viable solution for people who are trying to recover from disasters at a pace that's moving a lot faster than it has been in the past.
That's amazing. Y'all just have good ideas. I remember the difference in your offices, by the way, because I used to come in and check out your offices every so often. And there was a big change in your office. I believe it was Toyota that sent some people over to talk to you about efficiency...
Boy did we need it, Lynda...
...and all of the sudden there's these whiteboards and all these systems on the walls, but it was such a huge change. Have you been able to kind of pivot and transfer some of that information to other NGOs and disaster recovery groups?
Yeah, we sure have. I'll start and I'll kick it over to Zack. We've been so grateful for that partnership. They introduced a lot of efficiency into SBP, and really sort of changed the way that we think about how we do the work and why it's so important to have really clear standards and goals so that we can create more predictability for our clients and the communities that we serve. And so that's, like, a really critical part or essential part of our DNA as an organization. And then over the years, it's been really fun to share that knowledge with other organizations. So at SBP, we have a program that we call, quite simply, SHARE, right. And it's a notion that we learned from Toyota. They use a Japanese word for it, it's called Yokoten, but it just basically means that, you know, if you do something, you have to share it. And so our SHARE program not only trains other NGOs on TPS thinking and methodology, but also, in some communities, provides funding to other NGOs and helps them access AmeriCorps members. So real sort of capacity building for local, smaller NGOs. And you know, it's it's a journey that we've been on ourselves. So it's really nice to sort of be able to support others as they kind of continue to grow and expand and meet the needs in their community.
The key to us, Lynda, is clients come first. And it shouldn't matter who's helping people, whether it's the people in the green shirts, or the blue shirts, or the gray shirts, or the pink shirts... it shouldn't matter. And so part of our theory with clients is let's raise efficacy across the industry. And with SHARE work and the granting work, I think, last year, we granted out over $4 million to other nonprofit groups. And that's all too rare. But it's the right answer, right? These groups that are rebuilding houses, groups in our industry, aren't our competitors, they are our allies. And we firmly believe that so.... that's the only thing I'd add.
You've also met with multiple cabinet members and folks from presidential administrations.
I'll give you a great example. Former Secretary Shaun Donovan from the Obama administration has visited SBP in New Orleans a number of times and then in New York. And a few things happened. One he brought much needed national attention on our clients in New Orleans. He exposed other folks from HUD, who are really curious about doing the right things, and they have been at all administrations at HUD, to what it looked like on the ground. You know, policy is one thing, implementation is another. And we've been really thrilled with HUD over the years, the team folks have been really curious about the impact of the policy that they have. But I remember in New York at a community meeting, Lynda, after superstorm Sandy, and after... you know, having done it for six years, that we were then starting to finally get our heads around system change. And we understood that all the awesome nonprofit groups in the world could, at best, make a dent. And while the clients we're helping meant the world to them, there were multiples more who any of the nonprofit groups could never get through. So remember giving Secretary Donovan a hard time, relatively indignant, but he took it extraordinarily well. I think I delivered it mediocre-ly well, but we had some equity there. And he's like, "Zack, fine, we'll change the policy. Let's do some system change, but come to me with an idea." And so we came back with an idea that we scaled with Governor Bel Edwards in Louisiana. We tested with Governor Bel Edwards in Louisiana, and we're going to launch with Governor DeSantis in Florida. And bring it full circle. Secretary Donovan is now the new CEO of Enterprise Community Partners, which is the country's biggest lender and supporter of the development of affordable housing, they're a multi-billion dollar organization and will benefit tremendously from his leadership. And basically, the innovation is this, - for a long time, there has been allowed a reimbursement pathway. So people who would eventually be eligible for the CDBG dollars could, if they had it, spend their own money, and then when those funds hit the ground they could apply for reimbursement. It was a really smart pathway. The challenge, of course, is it only works for people who can self-fund. And so in Louisiana, we piloted a Recovery Acceleration Fund, which is really a bridge loan, where we lend the money to people, support them getting construction, and then when the construction is done, they apply for reimbursement and repay the fund. We're going to bring this to scale for hundreds of folks in Florida. Now the real end goal, Lynda, isn't for SBP to itself be running wraps around the country, but to have a big enough sample set that will show other institutional actors, cities, states, and frankly, for profit companies, that the most efficient way to get people home, is to underwrite the people in advance, lend them the money, cause the construction to occur, and then when the federal funds have hit the ground, have them apply for reimbursement. It won't get to everybody, but it will start recovery in a matter of months rather than in a matter of years. And that really came from being challenged by the cabinet secretary who said, "Complain all you want, but give me a solution." And we did.
Well, and you've expanded into advocacy as well. I think you helped work on the Disaster Assistance Simplification Act? Is that right? Were y'all involved with that?
Big time! I think, in some ways, we were at the ground floor of that. So what the disaster-something-Simplification Act is intended to do is create a one ap. So as it is right now, people who are seeking federal disaster aid apply to FEMA. To get full FEMA funding, they then have to get rejected by FEMA and go to the SBA and then get rejected by the SBA to go back to FEMA. And then when the HUD funds are finally on the ground, they apply for a third time. People hate it.
If it sounds confusing, that's because it is.
Yeah, and some people hate asking the federal government for money. And the last thing they think they should do is negotiate. So what really happens is people apply and then get off the train, if they get a 'no' or 'I need more information' or any sort of negative experience. And so the Simplification Act is intended to make that pathway. like... to keep people on the highway instead of having all these exit ramps. It's designed to make it attractive, rather than driving attrition. One ap. Apply once and then our federal government can share that information. And this, Lynda, goes back to, like, how SBP operates. We do the on the ground work with clients, we see what's working and what's needed, and then we take those lessons. And it drives, inspires, and really, requires our skilled impact and system change work.
Well, I'm gonna make sure that I put, in the Episode Notes, how to get in touch with y'all, how to connect with SBP, how to donate, how to volunteer, all of that. I was checking out the website today because I wanted to, you know, get the links and see what I was going to use, and I noticed a big issue on Louisiana Lefty, almost every guest I've had on this season... we've talked about climate and insurance, and I see one of your people has an article with the Grist right now on climate and the impact on the insurance industry. It's a great article. I'll also direct people to that. But did you have any comments on how that's?.. I mean, in Louisiana, to me, that's two of the biggest issues that we have.
Yeah, I agree. It's really challenging. Insurance costs, all of us know, have increased steadily. And this past year, there's huge jump in rates. And it's a complex problem, and it's going to require a lot of smart people coming together. And things just have to change, Lynda, I'm really excited to see sort of how much attention has been brought to this issue, not just in Louisiana, but around the country. And in fact, SBP, the Environmental Defense Fund, and American University hosted a conference in DC in September around this very issue, trying to bring leaders in the space, whether they work in the insurance industry side, if they're part of a larger foundation that's looking to invest in, you know, test products and other things, or folks who are innovative and are trying some solutions. And there was, you know, not only great attendance and lots of very engaging conversation, but also, I think, connecting more people who were thinking about this issue and how to solve it in different ways. So I can't say we have a great solution. But I am very excited about sort of who we're having conversations with and how we can be additive. And I think one thing that our experience on the ground is contributing to significantly is what happens when you're uninsured or underinsured, and how understanding sort of the negative economic ripple effect of a large percentage of people not having insurance or not having enough insurance can have an a community, is hopefully a way to sort of continue to pivot and think about what are some mitigation things that we can do to ensure that when disasters happen, people are better prepared, and the impact of those is less significant. Also, those mitigation measures make properties more attractive to insurers. And so it's really exciting that the state is investing in grant funding for mitigation at the household level. Like, by making your home more resilient, you can actually lower your insurance rates, which is awesome to see. Other states, including our neighbors in Alabama, have done this incredibly successfully. And so I think there's a really great moment here in Louisiana, we're going to start to see more and more of that type of investment, which will hopefully make us, as a state, more attractive to insurers because our housing stock is just more resilient. In addition to having mitigation money that's addressing some of the infrastructure challenges that we have.
Also on your website, you list five interventions. And they're listed as build, share, prepare, advise, and advocate. That kind of sums up everything we've been talking about, but did you kind of want to briefly touch on how you came about those five?
Well, we started with build, as you know, Lynda, we started rebuilding homes in St. Bernard Parish, and then we moved into New Orleans and from there started to support other communities recoveries. But there was a point in time where we said, "We can't just keep rebuilding. You know, we can't just be coming in after the fact. We have to think about our work more robustly." And if we care about our clients, we've got to help think about what are other ways, besides just rebuilding after a disaster, that we can support them and communities and really, one day, obviate the need for services or similar NGOs in the first place. And so with some really fortunate investment that we got from from Zurich, we launched programs that were focused more on preparedness and thinking about how we can educate homeowners about things beyond, like, evacuation routes, and go kits, which are really important, but I think everybody knows about those today. But other sort of practical, low cost things that we heard from our rebuilding clients that had they done them, their road to recovery would have been a lot shorter. So again, trying to, like, draw from what we learned and apply it to new programs that we were designing and developing. And then we launched the SHARE program in an effort to support, as Toyota had supported us, to support other NGOs in various communities that really needed additional funding, or technical support, or manpower, as they thought about recovery in their communities. And then I think the advice and advocacy programs are also just really exciting and critically important. So we talked a little bit about some of our advocacy work with the Disaster Simplification Act. There are other policy agendas that we're also pushing. And with Advise, you know, we have our Fellows program that's helping communities access mitigation money. But one thing we haven't talked about, Lynda, is, we have a team within our Advise program that provides training and technical support to government leaders, people who find themselves in charge of disaster aid funding from HUD and other agencies, that have significantly more money than they've had to manage in the past. And so our team helps them navigate many of the challenges that they face as grantees of this funding, really, with the goal, "How do you design and implement programs that really meet people who need that funding the most?" And have had a lot of success working in almost every state across the US at this point, training government leaders on how to utilize that funding most effectively. So really thinking about, if I can summarize, those programs to us, sort of represent the whole disaster cycle, if you will, and ways that we can not just react, but think about before, during and after disasters and ways that we can really start to get at sort of the root cause of some of the problems that we're all facing today.
Tell me about your welcome home parties.
You know, it's hard because it's out of suffering, right? It comes from suffering. I heard a minister speak the other day, and one of his quotes was, "Let's mourn for things left undone." Right? It's pretty heavy. Like, "Let's mourn for things left undone." The neat thing about a welcome home party is it's done. And it was the hands of the volunteers who have never met this person, the dollars of the donors who have never met this person, and the expertise of the team, all of whom could make more money working somewhere else, to get a family home. And so they're all different in some ways. Sometimes, you know, the food can be different, the music can be different, the speaker can be different, the neighbors are different. But what's not different, Lynda, is the impact on the client. And I'm sure, for every single client, what's not different is the feeling after the volunteers are gone, when the celebration is over, and the attendees are gone, when everyone's gone, and they go back in their house, and they lock the door from the inside. And they have that pause and that sigh of relief when their shoulders are coming down. I'm home. And that's a big deal. And that's why we do this work. But I want to be crystal clear. Success, on some level, is more welcome home parties. But real success is preventing people to go through that suffering that gets their shoulders up and brings them to the point of being pushed beyond their breaking point in the first place. And that's why we have those other interventions, we want to do everything we can to prevent the need from them coming to SBP or any other nonprofit group in the first place.
I love that. The work y'all do is so amazing, I'm so appreciative of everything you've done and everything you've, not just done through SBP, but how you have shared that with so many other people so that the work really can expand beyond what you're doing. So thank you for that. I appreciate your time today. And you're giving me so much time, I have the last three questions I want to ask y'all. Your goal is to shrink the time between disaster and recovery, as you've said. Hopefully, some of that disaster isn't as hard on as many folks. But if you want to shrink the time between disaster and recovery, I want to ask you, what's your main obstacle to that? And what's your main opportunity for that? So what's what's the obstacle to making that happen?
Two things come to mind. One is helping people understand that preparedness and mitigation is really important. And it's more than just evacuation routes and go kits. And it's hard, you know, everyone has competing demands on their time and on their resources. But a little bit can go a really long way. It's beautiful to hear stories, like, when storms come through Louisiana, and houses that have roofs that we've built that are built to the fortified standard, the roof stay in place, the shingles stay in place, there's no need to file a claim, right? Like, it works. So I would say that is perhaps, you know, one of the greatest challenges. I feel like if I never hear somebody say, again, "I never thought that this could happen to me," I'll feel like I've achieved something. I don't know what, Lynda, but something because it can, and it will, and is going to continue and very unfortunately it's just going to increase until we can figure out how to take better care of the planet and reduce these kinds of disasters from happening.
I'll talk about two challenges first, if I can. One is the enormity of it. Right? We need to do a lot of things differently. Building codes have to change. Insurance needs to be incentivized to get it available to people. It has to be more affordable to folks. There has to be some, we suspect, managed retreat. And there are massive institutions tied to all of these that either move slowly or are incentivized to not change. There's also, like, the same beautiful doggedness and streams of individuality in America that, I think, were central to the formation of this country that may make it kind of difficult. People want to live where they want to live. I don't know how you tell people who worked hard and bought land, "You can't live there." And so these are some... not intractable problems, but really significant problems. And I'm not convinced that we should. I think we can create opportunities, but there are some big themes inside of the soul and the genesis of our country that are coming into some sort of contradiction. Those are some of the challenges. I think some of the opportunities are you don't bet against our country. You know, there are... in times of necessity, that's where innovation comes. And we're at a moment right now where we're forced to pay attention. I think we are paying attention in ways that we haven't before. I don't think it's too late. And philanthropy is, at the state and city level, there's some really good decisions. I think at the federal government, there's some better decisions. You know, 10 years ago, when 100 Resilient Cities by Rockefeller was launched, it was fantastic. They paid for chief resilience officers for a 100 cities across the world. But there wasn't necessarily money for the resilience work that needed to come. Now there's money. Congress has made some decisions the Biden administration has led. There's money now. But the key is causing some of these communities that might not have familiarity with accessing discretionary federal funding to go get it. How do we build that bridge between the known local knowledge and the federal opportunities? I do think that's where our Fellows program sits and it's doing a marvelous, marvelous job. So there's some thoughts on both challenges and opportunities. You can't bet against America.
Last question. I'll get you both to answer, who's your favorite superhero?
I gotta go with Wonder Woman.
Nice. She's a popular answer on the show. How about you, Zack?
Awww... I love that. That's a beautiful answer. Very appropriate. Liz and Zack, thank you so much, once again, for joining me. It's an honor and a pleasure to have you on the show.
Thank you. We really appreciate you.
Keep telling the truth. Thanks, Lynda.
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