A lot of decent restoration people want to go to the south to help restore homes after hurricanes or west after wildfires. Some will even look at the northeast when there’s a major winter storm.
Many don’t because they don’t want to be seen as “carpetbaggers,” Northerners who showed up int he South after the Civil War to make money from rebuilding.
There are some very good ways to help in places that need the assistance without seeming like a vulture.
- Hire as many locals as you can – There might not be many people available but if they can push a broom or swing a hammer, give them work. Make it clear to everyone you meet that your goal is to have as many people on the payroll as possible; that you’re not simply going to bring a bunch of people from out-of-town to do all the work.
- Be charitable – If you can afford to, help everywhere you can. You’ll make a profit no matter what you do. Just try to find ways to help. Hand out generators. Offer to put tarps on roofs. Put plywood over broken windows. Go in and tear out the moldy bits from homes where the people can’t afford to hire someone.
- Be honest – Don’t pretend to be local. Tell people you came to help and do that. Help them by offering the lowest prices you can afford. Don’t go there and gouge everyone. Be inexpensive, hard-working, and honest.
- Open an office – If you’re able to make enough money and line up enough work, open an office in the area. Establish your business there and let it be run by locals. Become a part of the community, not just visitors coming to steal their money.
- Work with local officials and disaster volunteers. – Find out where the hardest hit areas are. Go there and see what you can do to help.
- Bring in supplies – If the area needs bottled water and tarps, buy some and bring them with you. Then simply drive down the street helping people. If they have a hole in the roof, tarp it for free. Hand out water everywhere you can. Keep getting supplies delivered from elsewhere if you can.
- Be amazing – When you arrive, people will be tired and scared. Be the best person you can. Help where you can. Work hard. Do great work. Help everyone you meet feel better about life.
Going into an area that’s been devastated by a disaster, like a fire, a flood, or a hurricane can feel a little like walking on graves. If you do it with the best intentions and treat people well, you can be an asset to the area.
One last note: If the officials and disaster specialists tell you that your services aren’t needed, they have enough people, move along. Don’t stay. Those people are the hey to local credibility. If they think you’re just there to steal from the people, you won’t ever be liked in town.
Have you traveled to a disaster area to help out? How did it go? What advice do you have?