As a millennial, Linda Julien was excited to buy her first home in April 2017 in the city of Miami Gardens.
“I felt like I was living the dream,” Julien said. “I worked so hard and saved all my money. God made a way.”
A few months later, Hurricane Irma hit, causing a palm tree to uproot and fall on her roof. The ceiling of the family room was damaged and the room was unusable due to water leaks. Julien was concerned the roof might cave in.
“I found myself at a dead end [with the insurance company],” Julien said. “I had mold and buckets in my home. I didn’t save up my money to buy my first home for this. This is not the American Dream. I was frustrated.”
It was nearly two months before her insurance company came to assess the damage. When the assessment occurred, she was only offered $1,200 to repair the roof.
“I can’t fix the roof with anything like that,” Julien said. “I pay my home insurance every month and this is how I’m treated when my roof needs to be fixed. I felt like they didn’t care.”
So, she had a blue tarp placed on the roof.
“It was cheaper to continue to replace the blue tarps every 30 days instead of fixing the roof,” Julien said.
Julien soon learned she wasn’t alone. She scouted out the neighborhood with a drone.
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“Every other house had a blue tarp,” Julien said. “You could connect the dots (with the blue tarps). This was a problem.”
Most of her neighbors had lived in their homes for more than 20 years, Julien said. The majority were retired, lived in a single-income household, and either didn’t have homeowners insurance or the disposable income to purchase a new roof.
“I felt I had a calling to help in this situation,” Julien said.
She started Operation No More Blue Tarps to provide pre-hurricane preparedness and post-hurricane recovery to senior residents in Miami Gardens. It is an initiative launched through ProMetropolis Miami, Julien’s nonprofit organization that she began with the goal of revitalizing homes in distressed neighborhoods.
In advance of a hurricane, Julien provides essentials such as plywood boards, flashlights, water and canned goods. In the aftermath of a hurricane, she performs a preliminary visit, has a professional assessment conducted and provides for blue tarp installation.
“Some people still have leaky roofs from Hurricane Irma,” Julien said. “I started in my neighborhood because I saw the need. They understand it’s not a one-day fix, but we are with them every step of the way to get relief.”
She’s also partnered with the Elderly Affairs Advisory Board of the City of Miami Gardens. Her councilman Reggie Leon (Seat 2) sends her names of senior homeowners who need her help. She currently has a waiting list.
Initially, Julien asked friends for assistance and donations for Operation No More Blue Tarps. She also acquired sponsors such as Radical Partners, a social impact accelerator that grows social impact ventures. Julien also participated in its Neighborhood Heroes program that supports leaders to strengthen their local social impact.
This year, Operation No More Blue Tarps will participate in Give Miami Day on Nov. 21. Hosted by the Miami Foundation, Give Miami Day is a 24-hour online giving campaign that allows people to donate to nonprofits in Miami-Dade County. Last year, she completed the Miami Foundation’s Miami Fellows 15-month leadership program.
“I’m very grateful to the Miami Foundation,” Julien said. “I’ve always given to Give Miami Day. This day, I will be on the other end to receive contributions.”
A few weeks ago, Julien was finally compensated by her insurance company for repairs to her roof after Hurricane Irma. But, not before receiving city code violation fees, paying for the roof repairs out of pocket, and having to seek litigation to receive reimbursement from her insurance company. She also received a letter that her insurance carrier was going to drop her policy.
“It’s been non-stop frustration,” Julien said.
Going forward, Julien’s next step is helping to install hurricane impact windows and doors in the community.
“My goal is to help the wiser crowd to live healthy and peacefully,” Julien said. “They shouldn’t have to go through all this.”
Linda Julien, founder, Operation No More Blue Tarps