Thirty thousand homes were damaged or destroyed in the storm, and fifty thousand cars were flooded or totaled. The rain that fell set an all-time record for total rainfall recorded from a tropical storm in the US.
On January 13, 2018, we joined a 25-member World Renew needs assessment team that arrived in Brazoria County, Texas, to survey residents about their unmet needs after the storm. The volunteers were ready to get started on the first day of work, but a rare ice storm in Texas delayed our process for two days!
During the two weeks we were in Texas, we talked with people at walk-in centers, made phone calls, walked door-to-door, and visited 23 hotels to find survivors who were still displaced from their homes but renting a room in the local area. Here are few of the people we encountered while we were there.
some of our team
We met a group of Cambodian immigrants who live in the area and use their land to grow food and flowers. One of the group members grows “kangkong” or water spinach, and lost all of his greenhouses to the flooding. Others had to recondition their soil and replant seeds and plants for future crops.
Most families are encountering mold because of the storm and the climate. It is difficult to get rid of mold permanently. One lady had a bloody nose for weeks until she moved to another location; miraculously the nose bleeds stopped. Mold spores can be toxic and are especially unhealthy for children and elderly people to breathe.
We met a couple from Mexico who had many struggles. They are working on attaining legal citizenship in the US, getting the deed to their home, getting rid of mold in their home, making their car payment, and fixing the damage to their house. They earn $20,000 a year and received $5,000 from FEMA to complete repairs. They also have a professional construction estimate for $187,000 to fix their home. They have twins that were due in February 2018.
One family whose home was already built on nine-foot stilts still had a foot of water in their home. Many families are required by their insurance company to raise their home when they repair it, but that is a costly venture.
A man, who was disabled in a construction accident and abandoned by his wife, lost all of the contents in his home to Harvey. He was forced to evacuate from his house for two months, and he is now paying for repairs to his rented home with his disability check because his landlord isn’t fixing it. He has nowhere else to go.
Many homes are being rebuilt, but trustworthy electricians, plumbers, and carpenters are in short supply. Scams are common after a disaster.
A possible case of human trafficking came to our attention. There is a woman who left many of her belongings at her boyfriend’s home during the hurricane. The home was damaged by the storm and the boyfriend is refusing to give her items back. He is demanding that she pay him $300 a month to store her belongings. She moved to a garage apartment where the landlord is now charging her $900 a month for rent and is also forcing her to cook and clean for him.
The local recovery group in Brazoria County, Texas invited World Renew DRS to their community to help find out who was falling through the cracks in regards to hurricane recovery. These people, as well as the others we interviewed, have now been brought the attention of the local recovery group and they will be walking alongside the survivors to address these situations.
Please pray with us that the Hurricane Harvey survivors in Brazoria County were blessed by our efforts. Pray that now that they are connected with their local recovery group, they will find the support they need to recover from Hurricane Harvey. Please pray also for the staff and volunteers of the local recovery group, that they will have the funding and staffing to assist everyone we interviewed.
Denny and Judy Stoel
World Renew DRS volunteers