As I drive the highways of the Texas Gulf Coast this time of year, I’m struck by the beauty of the Texas bluebonnets and other wild flowers along the roadside. The arrival of the bluebonnets tells us that spring has sprung and new life is awakening.
At long last, we are also beginning to see new life surface within the many communities that experienced Hurricane Harvey’s wrath last August. Homes, towns, and even lives are beginning to rebuild following last summer’s devastating wind, rain, and floods.
But, honestly, community revitalization is still woefully behind where it should be. The FEMA grant for disaster case management was JUST recently approved, more than six months after the storm’s impact. As a result of this and so many other slow processes, I am witnessing the fatigue that comes with the realization that recovery following a storm the size and scope of Harvey is a long and arduous task.
Volunteers are weary. Emergency managers and disaster recovery specialists are weary. And, of course, survivors—those living in limbo, not knowing whether they will be able to return to their lives as they were before Harvey—are weary, stressed, and experiencing intense grief for what once was. Entire communities are wondering, Is it worth it? Do we even have the ability to overcome this? Who are we, and who do we want to be? Are we even going to exist as a community anymore? We are at the ebb of the disaster cycle, and it is a difficult place to be.
For all the homes we see being rebuilt and repaired, there are thousands more that still haven’t even been gutted and sanitized. And there are people who have no home even to rebuild or repair. Low income renters in many communities have no place to go as their only living option has been totally decimated. Where are these people living? Will they stay? Will they be forced to leave? And what impact does this anxiety have on these families living without a roof over their heads or without knowing from where their next meal will come? And how will the relocation of populations affect the businesses and schools where they once lived?
But as I said, springtime brings new life that is evident in bluebonnets along the road and the greening of the grass and the trees. It also is evident in the appearance of thousands of new volunteers from all over the U.S. and beyond who converged on Texas communities, spending their spring breaks to help rebuild and repair and inspire these beleaguered communities. And this summer, there will be even more fresh volunteers.
And the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s Hurricane Harvey Recovery Fund is ready to support these efforts to rebuild—as are many other philanthropic funds set up to support this long-term recovery. We know the importance of being committed long-term to the recovery process, and we have many allies working with us who know this, too.
So, take heart, Texas Gulf Coast. It is a long and difficult process to recover from a storm’s devastation. But the stars at night are still big and bright…deep in the heart of Texas. And, thousands of organizations, agencies, and volunteers are here or are coming to say, “We’ve got your back, Texas!”
As always, we remain TEXAS STRONG!