My social media feeds are sending me memories these days from three years ago – a photographic reminder of our experience during Hurricane Harvey here on the outskirts of Houston.
We were lucky. Although we had relocated to the area just 10 days before the storm, our house was not significantly damaged, and we only lost power for about an hour. Our only negative outcome was a bad case of cabin fever as the hurricane flooded the roads surrounding us and closed most businesses. Many of our neighbors, though, were not so lucky.
As I revisit that time three years ago, I also have one eye on the Weather Channel and local news. This time, the coverage is non-stop about Hurricane Laura in the Gulf, which was on a direct path to parts of the Louisiana and Texas Gulf Coast. Many of these areas are still recovering from Harvey … and Rita … and Ike … and, of course, the ravages of a global pandemic with its hotspot eye focused directly on Texas.
What I’ve learned over the last three years – and, honestly, what I’ve known for much longer – is that those most disproportionately affected by a disaster are vulnerable populations like communities of color, low-income communities, the disabled, our elders, veterans, the homeless, immigrants and migrants.
Recovery is rarely, if ever, equitable.
Though we tried to address that inequity with grant funding through the CDP Hurricane Harvey Recovery Fund, I can’t help but think, “Could we have done more?”
I wish we could have done more as I think about Port Arthur and Beaumont and Orange and so many other communities in the “Golden Triangle” of Texas that is made up of Hardin, Jefferson and Orange Counties. This is the area in Texas that has received the brunt of Laura’s wrath. Did we do enough? Did we help make these communities stronger? Will they be able to better weather this storm because of some of the work that went into their recovery from Harvey? I like to think so.
I’m certainly impressed by the work of the nearly 50 Hurricane Harvey Fund grantees. They helped address the needs of our fellow Texans around housing, mental health, education, economic insecurity, legal services and so much more. I DO believe that the communities where they serve are a bit stronger today due to the vital work they did.
From what I’m hearing from Harvey grantees as the storm damage becomes clear, they are stronger. They knew what to do and they’re ready to get to work … again … to get their communities back to whatever the new normal is in this layered disaster world. I’m so proud of organizations like Hardin County Strong and Orange County Disaster Rebuild and others as they’ve continued, through subsequent traumas in their counties, to support their citizens and become a force of hope and care that is so desperately needed these days.
But I also know that we still have a long way to go. And that, even three years later, we must keep our focus to ensure recovery is equitable, that recovery is fair and that communities are more able to thrive even after the next big “storm.” I also know that we are today, three years after Harvey, just a bit Texas Strong-ER.
To help us continue to build resilient communities, please consider supporting the CDP Atlantic Hurricane Season Recovery Fund. The Fund will support vulnerable populations affected by Hurricane Laura and other storms that may wreak havoc this year.