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Group formed to oversee long-term flood recovery in southwest Michigan

BERRIEN SPRINGS, Mich. -- Two months after historic flooding hit Michiana, the River Springs Estates mobile home community in Berrien Springs is dealing with dozens of condemned homes, hundreds of thousands in repairs, and a cleanup process still in full swing.

“It’s coming along, but far from where it should be,” said Patty Hoskins, the park manager.

Driving through the Berrien Springs neighborhood, you still find debris on some front lawns, ‘no trespassing’ signs still posted on doors, and flooded belongings still filling trash cans.

“The money that they spent being dislocated from their homes, it took a toll on every family in this park and they’re still trying to catch up,” Hoskins said.

Hoskins also calls River Springs Estates home.

Her house avoided the floodwater, but her daughter’s did not.

And neither did dozens of others in the low-income community.

Hoskins said 32 homes were destroyed in February’s flood.

60 are in need of repairs and mold inspections.

Five are being used to store debris.

The flooding may have happened two months ago, but the recovery process is still in full swing and damages have surpassed $1 million at the park.

“We’ve got people that are living in their homes, but don’t have a water heater, a functioning water heater or a washer and dryer,” said Jan Radde, with the United Way of Southwest Michigan. “A lot of them are living in temporary housing hoping to get their homes back. So it varies.”

The United Way has started hosting bi-monthly meetings with state and local organizations as part of a long-term recovery group formed in wake of the flood.

The Berrien Community Foundation, American Red Cross of Southwest Michigan, Salvation Army in Niles, City of Niles, Michigan State Police Office of Emergency Management, Berrien County Office of Emergency Management, Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency, Emergency Shelter Services, United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), 1st Presbyterian Church in Niles, Neighbor to Neighbor, Berrien County Community Development and Andrews University are all part of the group.

Back at River Springs Estates, Hoskins’ flooded office is slowing being put back together.

She said progress at the park remains slow, but steady.

And Hoskins said help continues to come in every form, from weekly food donations by the Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency, volunteers who have come to assist in cleaning up, inmates from the Berrien County Jail being sent out to help clean, Overflow Church in Benton Harbor and more.

“The community has just been absolutely amazing helping us through this catastrophic event,” Hoskins said. “It’s been a blessing.”

Hoskins said the park needs about $95,000 to pay for equipment and crews to remove the 32 condemned homes in the park.

She said the goal is to have them all removed before summer comes, because the mold inside each home will spread faster in the heat, but that’s unlikely to happen because the park doesn’t have the money.

Hoskins said dozens of families are still utilizing the weekly food donations brought to the park on Tuesdays; and one family from the neighborhood is still living in a hotel.

United Way has agreed to pay $11,000 for mold inspections to be done to 50 homes in the park.

If you are in need of recovery assistance, you can contact Jan Radde of United Way at janet.radde@uwsm.org or 269-982-4029.

You can also still donate to the local Disaster Relief Fund by clicking here, by texting UWSMRELIEF to 51555, or by mailing cash or check to:

Disaster Relief Fund

c/o Berrien Community Foundation

2900 South State Street, Suite 2E

St. Joseph, MI 49085

The next meeting for the long-term recovery group will be on Thursday, May 3 at the United Way of Southwest Michigan.

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