OVERSTREET — Todd Wedermeier was living his relatively quiet existence in the Panhandle when Hurricane Michael flattened his world.
The mobile home the disabled veteran was living in was destroyed and what was left was his shed out back.
With the slight renovations he'd done, it may have measured 8 feet by 8 feet, slightly larger than an average prison cell.
The roof leaked when it rained and there was no plumbing.
A port-o-potty in the front yard was the bathroom and a garden hose provided his cold showers.
Wedermeier existed that way for just shy of six months. The first three weeks of that without power.
“It was crazy,” Wedermeier said. “There were some times I thought I was going to lose it.”
He added what may have been one of the understatements of the year: “I sure learned a lot about being appreciative of things.”
In the days immediately following Michael, Joe Paul, Gulf County's Veteran Services Officer as well as administrator of the county's State Housing Initiative Program (SHIP), knew he would have a significant uptick in need, particularly for housing, among the most vulnerable in the county.
He applied early for funding from a $5 million disaster fund earmarked by the Florida Housing Finance Corp., which was described as the state's “affordable housing bank.”
Florida Housing also funds local SHIP programs.
The county sought $750,000; Florida Housing allocated $764,800, more than twice the county's typical annual allotment.
“We pride ourselves on getting the money out quickly,” said Nancy Mueller, policy director for Florida Housing. “I work in an office. We appreciate coming out to see what the money does.”
Paul's next task was fielding candidates, low or very-low income residents, and assessing how far he could carry the disaster dollars.
Having identified eight eligible candidates without homes, Paul went shopping and found Scott Collins and Showcase Homes in Lake City.
Collins is an independent dealer for Clayton Homes and Collins reached out to his regional manufacturer in Waco, Texas.
“None of this would have been possible without them,” Paul said.
The county was able to secure modular homes usually costing nearly $75,000 each for under $60,000 per home.
Between that collaboration and the help of local businesses, eight needy individuals and families, all living in the Wewahitchka area, received new homes to replace ones that no longer stood.
Among the recipients were three disabled veterans and a spouse of a deceased veteran.
As for Wedermeier, despite the loss of his home, the loss of many creature comforts and living without any of those comforts for months, he was still looking to help others.
As so many others helped him.
“After the storm, I wanted to stick around for the cleanup,” Wedermeier said. “I wanted to help anybody I could. I work for a trucking company and I've been doing anything I can.
“I think that is what it is all about.”