Glossary of Terms
Housing counseling agencies (HCAs) are well positioned to help homeowners and renters after a disaster. With their knowledge of local resources and programs and relationships with clients, HCAs can help clients manage their post-disaster financial situation and navigate the complexities of disaster recovery assistance programs.
Why read this toolkit? This guide outlines the key actions that HCAs should take post disaster to ensure they can resume operations quickly and expand services as necessary to assist their clients in recovery. For information regarding what agencies need to do in advance of a disaster, see the companion guide on preparing for a disaster.
Who should use this toolkit? HCAs, Intermediaries, State Housing Finance Agencies, and Multi-State Organizations that want to play an active and effective role in recovery should use this guide.
What is in this toolkit? This guide provides guidance on what HCAs should do following a disaster. Actions post disaster include:
Housing counseling works. The primary objective of HUD’s Housing Counseling Program is to educate families and individuals in order to help them make smart decisions to improve their housing situation. HUD-approved Housing counseling agencies have played key roles in the recovery from many disaster events, including Superstorm Sandy; Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Irma, and Maria; and other events such as wildfires, earthquakes, and flash floods. Housing counselors receive training that enables them to help disaster survivors maintain or obtain safe, affordable housing. With some additional training, housing counselors can also help address a wide array of disaster recovery issues facing clients.
When disasters strike, housing counseling agencies (HCAs) will put their emergency response plans and continuity of operations plans (COOP) into action to ensure that staff and clients remain safe, operations continue, and clients are assisted as soon as possible. View the companion guide on Preparing for a Disaster to learn more about the differences between an emergency response plan and a COOP.
Emergency actions. The agency should activate their Emergency Response Plan as early as possible. Immediately take the planned steps to protect staff and facilities. This may mean evacuation, shelter in place, or lockdown.
In the hours and days following the emergency event, the agency should assess the exact nature of the event. Agency personnel named in the Emergency Response Plan and COOP, should determine the potential impacts of the event on agency operations. The Emergency Response Plan will help the agency assess whether the disaster event has damaged facilities, impeded access to the agency, or affected staff’s abilities to carry out basic functions. Procedures outlined in the Emergency Response Plan activate the COOP. The agency should also contact their HUD point of contact to apprise them of their operational plan. If the agency determines that it is unable to resume operations and carry out its housing counseling plan, it may submit a temporary inactive status request to HUD or HUD intermediary in writing.
For more information about a specific current disaster situation, visit HUD’s Disaster and Emergency Resource Page for Housing Counselors.
Immediate recovery. The agency should take actions described in the Emergency Response Plan and the COOP to restore normal operations.
Resumption of operations. As the situation normalizes, follow the COOP to transition to normal operations.
As housing counseling agencies (HCAs) stabilize their own organizations, they can participate in a broader community response and offer critical support to recovering community members.
Consider the recovery services needed. In the aftermath of the disaster, the need for client services increases. The agency will have new clients whose housing and finances were destabilized by the disaster, while existing clients will likely need additional assistance. Post-disaster housing counseling services may be extensive. The Overview of Housing Counseling Disaster Recovery Services provides a comprehensive summary of challenges clients face after a disaster, a list of services to consider, and guidance on implementing post-disaster services.
Conduct active outreach. Community members will not know where to go for help. To reach clients and offer counseling services, HCAs should:
Work in partnership. Build on partnerships developed prior to the disaster and establish new ones as appropriate. Consider the full range of partners for disaster recovery.
Access disaster resources. Following a disaster, HCAs may have access to additional resources. See the Federal Disaster Recovery Resources At a Glance and Disaster Preparedness and Recovery Resources. Agencies can help clients access resources that will help them obtain rental, mortgage and tax relief, find temporary housing, and apply for government recovery programs. Your agency should begin looking into what resources you think will be most useful to your clients. Resources will be available from different government agencies and nonprofit organizations.
Housing counselors can help clients navigate the disaster recovery process, access recovery resources, keep their finances in order, and develop plans to repair their home and avoid foreclosure or eviction.
Key areas where clients are likely to need help post disaster are summarized in the Checklist on Counseling for Recovery. Use this checklist to walk clients through topics including:
Mitigate the short term damage to your agency and ensure that the COOP can be put into practice.
Prepare your agency to continue its essential functions across a broad spectrum of emergencies.
Leverage information about common post-disaster issues and the counseling response.
Outline the information and services offered specifically by your Housing Counseling Agency.
Assess current partners and identify new ones.
Help your clients navigate federal funding sources to apply for funding quickly and correctly.
View a list of common resources for disaster preparedness and recovery.
Gear your counseling toward your client's recovery needs.
Assist your clients with assessing damage and filing insurance claims.
Provide resources for your clients to effectively hire and supervise a contractor.
Teach your clients how to safely address post-disaster hazards such as mold and lead hazards.
Safeguard your clients against fraud and scams.
Help your clients link to other social services and cope with trauma.
Ensure your client learns the measures they can take to prevent disaster damage and save on costs following a disaster.