19 Months Later: Stories from Hurricane Harvey Recovery

Ms. Campbell in front of her home in Refugio, Texas.

Last month, I was able to share with some of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) board members, partners and donors the good work being done here in Texas thanks to our funding provided to local organizations from the CDP Hurricane Harvey Recovery Fund. We also began video documentation of some of our work here so that we can share our story and what we’ve experienced as a result of our strategic, community-focused, long-term recovery grantmaking.

What we’ve learned is this – recovery is LONG and recovery is hard.

But, CDP and our partners are here for the long-haul. We get it and we’re committed to supporting those local organizations doing the hard work of recovery … of building resilience. Here are some of their stories:

Josephine’s house 19 months after Hurricane Harvey.

In Fort Bend County, Texas
Miss Josephine lives in Rosenberg, along the Brazos River, as generations of her family have before her. It is 19 months after Hurricane Harvey and she is still waiting for her house to be leveled. It cannot be repaired and restored until this happens because Harvey decimated the very foundation upon which her home sits, causing significant damage throughout. But her grateful words were filled with hope and she had a smile on her face as we visited with her. (And as she gleefully shared a photo of an alligator that had come onto her lawn after the hurricane.) She sees light at the end of her frustrating tunnel because, CDP Hurricane Harvey Recovery Fund grantee, Attack Poverty, is working to support Josephine’s holistic recovery from the storm, building the home back in a manner that will help it better withstand the flooding that is sure to come again.

Some of Josephine’s neighbors have already had their homes leveled and raised – high off the ground to protect their home from the next storm – with support from Attack Poverty and their partners. Attack Poverty believes in “walking with the whole community.” This holistic approach means Attack Poverty and other groups funded by the CDP fund are not just rebuilding. They’re rebuilding better and providing resiliency and hope and sustainability to the people and communities they serve.
To hear more about this site visit from a funder’s perspective, please read this blog from Michael Corley, Senior Consultant with The Patterson Foundation.

Ms. Campbell’s new house (left) is being built behind her damaged home where she currently lives with her son.

In Refugio, Texas
“Momma, Ms. Campbell has a roof!” shared an elementary school student with her mother one day recently. Ms. Campbell, a teaching assistant from Refugio, smiled and laughed as she shared with us her delight in seeing her new home being built – and how the kids in her class are tracking its progress too. Hope has finally arrived for Ms. Campbell and several others in Refugio – an almost forgotten part of southern Texas that was devastated by the storm.

Right now, she’s still living in her damaged home with her son, who has asthma and allergies. His health has been negatively affected by the persistent mold growing there. But she can look out her back door and see progress. Her new home, raised above potential flood waters and built to withstand the strong hurricane winds of future storms, is quickly going up on her existing home site – just behind her damaged home, which will be demolished once the new one is complete. (Her son is hoping the slab of the back porch will stay so he’ll have a basketball court!) Golden Crescent Habitat for Humanity has been working since Harvey made landfall in Victoria, Texas, but they more recently moved to help recovery in Refugio and other parts of the affected area because not much was happening there in spite of tremendous need. Thanks to funding from CDP, they’ve provided hope for Ms. Campbell and many others.

Several blocks away, Alice is excited to see that her new home, with a wraparound porch and a beautiful red door, has a ramp to help her and her small dogs navigate down from the required elevation to make her home safe and resilient in the face of future storms. She’s been living in a trailer since soon after Hurricane Harvey destroyed her home. The trailer is now located at the fairgrounds in Refugio. She’s ready to be home and away from the loud noises of the fair. Again, thanks to the rebuilding efforts of Golden Crescent Habitat and CDP, she’ll finally be able to return soon. Alice can’t wait to host her grandbabies again—safely—at her own place!

The Trauma and Grief Center at Texas Children’s Hospital’s Mobile Unit program will provide trauma-informed assessments and care to youth located in the most underserved areas of greater Houston.

In Houston, Texas
Immigrant communities are an integral part of Texas and always have been. In Houston, there are more than 140 different languages spoken! We know that immigrant populations are also some of the hardest hit during a disaster and are often the most reluctant to seek support for their recovery. How do we support the preparedness, recovery and resilience of this important part of our amazing melting pot? The Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative (HILSC) and their partners have developed a Humanitarian Action Plan and other tools that will help us respond to the needs of immigrants during and after disasters. Funding from CDP will support HILSC as it implements this plan, strengthening the communities they serve and building resilience for them in the face of future storms.

The “Hurricane Harvey Registry Initial Report” from Rice University has identified that psychological stressors from Hurricane Harvey continue to have a significant impact on the mental and physical health of individuals and communities in the region. In fact, children in low-income households and communities of color experience trauma in their lives at a much higher rate. Given this, Dr. Julie Kaplow, director of the Trauma and Grief Center at Texas Children’s Hospital, knew that the effects of Hurricane Harvey on these children would simply compound the mental health issues they were already experiencing. Through CDP funding, Dr. Kaplow and her team have added trauma and grief counselors and expanded their mobile healthcare units in order to serve those most in need—where they are. The mobile units travel to these communities weekly, parking at schools or local churches or community centers, to best serve all who need their help. And they provide referrals for additional care as needed.

It’s hard to believe it’s been more than 19 months since we all watched with horror as Hurricane Harvey devastated 41 counties of the great state of Texas, stretching from near the Mexico border to the border of Louisiana, killing 68 and damaging thousands of homes, business and communities. And perhaps even harder to believe that so many are just now beginning to feel hopeful. Recovery is long. Recovery is hard. But we are here. And so are a lot of amazing organizations doing the good work to build resiliency in their communities. I’m proud of the work we do at CDP, but I’m even prouder of the work these local groups do to support their clients, their friends, their towns as they work toward recovery.

Together, we remain Texas Strong!

Sally Ray

Sally Ray

Director, Domestic Funds

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