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Rebuilding Continues Two Years After Hurricane Laura and Delta

Everybody that visits Ernestine Vincent's home feels welcome. "When people come to my home, I want them to feel comfortable," she explains. "Take your shoes off. Let your hair down. If you got a wig, take it off. We want you to feel at home." Residing in Lake Charles for her entire life, she learned the power of community at a very young age. Her grandmother often told her, "You never know how Jesus Christ will come, so you should never turn anyone away." Taking that message to heart, that's how she greets all of her guests.

Vincent family home

Ms. Ernestine channels her love for people into her work as a CNA, a job she has held for thirty years. Her husband, Mr. Kerry, is a preacher at a local church who enjoys bringing the community together in prayer. Along with hosting family feasts for her five godchildren, with signature dishes like pork chops and fried chicken, Ms. Ernestine has a long-standing tradition that she never fails to complete. The first week of each November, she bakes dozens of pies from scratch to give out to her friends, family, and anyone in need. It is a tradition that she has maintained for over thirty years. "Last year, I made 87 pies."

Meet the homeowners: Ms. Ernestine and Mr. Kerry

Before Hurricane Laura made landfall in August 2020, Ms. Ernestine and her husband received a mandatory evacuation notice, prompting them to evacuate to a relative's house in Texas. The evacuation was not easy for the Vincents, as she struggles with several health conditions that require medication and constant monitoring. Extreme weather events have also been an emotional trigger for her ever since losing her mother to Hurricane Rita in 2005.

Ms. Ernestine and family

When Hurricane Laura finally roared across the Louisiana coastline as a Category 4 hurricane with wind speeds of 150 mph, it caused widespread damage to Southwest Louisiana. An estimated 46,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in the storm (McKinsey & Company, 2020). Days later, when the couple returned home, they had never seen their hometown in such awful condition. "You wouldn't have recognized Lake Charles," Ms. Ernestine recalled, "It was like a bomb went off and destroyed everything.

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Damage inside the house from the storm.

The home that the Vincents had been living in for almost twenty years had suffered severe damage. The winds flattened their carport, broke their windows, unhinged their doors, and threw their backyard storage unit on top of their neighbor's fence. Many friends and family had their roofs entirely ripped from their houses. While Ms. Ernestine had homeowners insurance before the storm hit, getting the insurance company to cooperate and cover the cost of recovery was not easy. When she finally received a check, it was far less than she needed to cover the cost of the repairs. Like many disaster survivors, she also experienced contractor fraud when the hired contractor took her money and left her doors broken.

Flooding in the Vincent family carport after Hurricane Delta

Six weeks into their recovery, the unimaginable happened. Hurricane Delta, a Category 2 hurricane, made landfall at Creole, Louisiana, tearing through the very same communities that Laura hit. It brought high flood waters to the already devastated neighborhoods, worsening the damage and undoing what repairs residents had been able to make. Two feet of flood water soaked through her already-damaged doors, ruining most of the modest progress they had made during their initial recovery. Luckily, their flood insurance allotted them the total funds available to gut the house and recommence recovery. With no money to cover the cost of relocation, however, the Vincents and their 16-year-old goddaughter spent the next several months sleeping on the unfinished floor of their gutted house, with no walls or ceilings.

Ms. Ernestine and her goddaughter, Tierra

Their dining room table was the only piece of furniture they managed to salvage. As an undying optimist, Ms. Ernestine made the best out of a bad situation. When November rolled around, she stuck to tradition. "I still made my pies," she laughed, "you don't let anything stop you from doing what you love." Despite her challenges and the scale of loss, she held onto her enthusiasm for life and compassion for others. No one would go without a pie in the year they needed it most.

Ms. Ernestine's famous pies

After gutting the home, Ms. Ernestine contacted her homeowners' insurance company about her collapsed ceiling. They informed her that, after Hurricane Laura, she had been dropped from her policy, along with every other regional client, but had failed to contact her. When she sought a new insurance company, all of her applications were denied. In order to get new insurance, she was required to bring her damaged electrical box, doors, and fascia boards up to code. In an effort to increase profits by decreasing payouts to disaster-impacted homeowners, insurance companies are sometimes reluctant to insure communities living in areas at high risk of experiencing natural disasters. Due to this practice, Ms. Ernestine is one of thousands of homeowners in Louisiana without homeowner's insurance.

The electrical box outside of the Vincent home

In July 2022, she heard about SBP through her aunt and reached out to us to see if our team in Lake Charles could assist. Within days, we were at her door. After approving her application, our team in SWLA, supervised by Construction Project Manager Brian Deubert, began working to repair their fascia boards, broken doors, kitchen, laundry room, pantry, and bedroom. They also hired a licensed master electrician to fix the electrical panel to get the correct permits and insurance-friendly documentation so their home can once again qualify for homeowners insurance. "Even two years after all these disasters, you can't give up," she insisted. If you don't have hope, you don't have anything. I believe in Louisiana. I believe in SBP."

    Get Involved with SBP to help families like the Vincents return home after Hurricanes Laura and Delta.


    1. McKinsey & Company, 2020. Summary Housing Study Oct. 2020. Calcasieu Parish. https://www.foundationswla.org/mckinsey-housing-study