The Heartbreak And The Hope: Looking Back at Hurricane Harvey Recovery
Last Updated: 18 May 2021
Disaster Relief & Emergency Servicesecho $minutes. " Minute Read"?>
It’s very likely that the people of Texas will never forget Hurricane Harvey.
Those who survived the 2017 storm will pass down their stories of homes destroyed, schools closed, small businesses permanently shut down, roads flooded, cars swept away, thousands unemployed, and entire tourism industries crippled. They’ll also tell stories of neighbors feeding and clothing neighbors, local chefs, and restaurants donating their food and time, and strangers helping strangers. In the wake of an unimaginable disaster, the people of Texas came together to collectively pull themselves out of the crisis.
As a Texas-based nonprofit specializing in individualized disaster recovery, Endeavors was proud to be a part of the immediate disaster relief effort, and we have continued to aid Texans in their long-term disaster recovery processes through our comprehensive Disaster Case Management program. In the past three years, we’ve helped over 2,900 clients achieve a full recovery and have tended to over 10,000 information and outreach cases in Texas. Though each client’s story is unique, every single one inspires us with their strength, resilience, and hope.
A New Home, A Brighter Future
Most of us cannot imagine losing our home. If it were ripped away by a flood, caved in by a fallen tree, or torn apart by gale-force winds, would we have a contingency plan? Would we have a place to live in the days, weeks, and months immediately following the storm while we waited for our insurance claims to be processed? Perhaps we’d have family nearby, perhaps we’d have a car to drive to safety in a new city. But perhaps we wouldn’t.
This was the reality Pam McWilliams faced when Harvey destroyed her Vidor, TX home. Vidor, which sits right outside of Beaumont, less than fifty miles off the Gulf Coast, was devastated by the hurricane. Hundreds were stranded without food or water, and many homes in the community suffered extreme interior water damage, while others were deemed a total loss from the flooding. For nearly a year after the storm, Pam tried to find a way to fix her home that had become uninhabitable by anyone’s standards, and she was struggling to afford a safe temporary rental.
We first met Pam at one of Endeavors’ outreach events, and when she shared her story with us, we knew we could help. We immediately assigned a Disaster Case Manager (DCM) to her case. This DCM worked one-on-one with Pam to assess her specific needs and find resources and organizations available to help. Together, Pam and her DCM navigated the complicated process of submitting six different relief applications to various aid organizations. When Pam received word that the Red Cross would be providing her with financial assistance, her sense of relief was overwhelming. In addition, her DCM helped her apply for federal aid from FEMA, which provided financial assistance for home repairs, rental expenses, and critical needs such as food, gas, and medical care. Suddenly, Pam had enough financial breathing room to start recovering from the hurricane.
But the best news was yet to come. Pam and her DCM had applied for assistance from the General Land Office ( GLO) Homeowners Assistance Program (HAP), which helps homeowners affected by Hurricane Harvey repair and rebuild their homes through temporary relocation, home elevation (to get it above the flood level), reconstruction, repair, and rehabilitation. Pam was notified that her application for aid had been approved and that HAP would be providing her with a new home. In the following months, Pam and her DCM worked side-by-side to oversee the building of her new home. Endeavors stayed with her every step of the way until, a year later, Pam finally received the keys to her new home.
Perseverance, Creativity, and Teamwork
One of the trickiest things about disaster recovery is that it’s not one-size-fits-all. Disaster strikes everyone differently, at different points in their life, and hurricanes like Harvey don’t care what other challenges you’re already facing. They also don’t care about hitting you while you’re down.
Jacqueline Kopeski was not only trying to manage the pain of her chronic health issues in challenging circumstances, she was also grieving the death of her fiance when Harvey struck her home in Liberty City, TX. Fleeing her home, Jacqueline moved into a tiny FEMA trailer with the few possessions that hadn’t been lost to the storm. But then what? Where does a person with serious chronic medical issues and the weight of grief go from there?
Thankfully, Jacqueline met with Endeavors and was assigned a DCM to help her develop a plan. With over fifteen years of experience helping Texans recover from natural disasters, Endeavors addressed Jacqueline’s individual recovery needs, and her DCM procured a fully furnished RV from the Liberty County Long-Term Recovery Committee. But disaster came in a one-two punch, and the vehicle — which was Jacqueline’s home — was stolen. Jacqueline and her DCM refused to let that get in their way of a full recovery. Jacquline’s DCM procured another RV, as well as financial assistance from FEMA and the Red Cross to cover the cost of building repairs and the replacement of damaged property. Sometimes, FEMA aid recipients are liable to repay their assistance, so Endeavors filed an appeal to protect Jacqueline from having $16,000 garnished from her wages. Finally, Jacqueline could put Hurricane Harvey behind her, and pursue a life of safety, security, and dignity.
(Did you know? Yes, you can get help if FEMA denies your claim. Find out how.)
Weathering The Storm: A Love Story
In Houston, 65-year-old Allison Pamela spent her days serving as the primary caregiver for her husband, who lived with a serious health condition that prevented independent mobility. When the storm hit, the Pamelas’ world was turned upside-down. Four feet of water flooded their home, severely damaging the integrity of the roof and walls and destroying the cabinetry, flooring, ceilings, electrical, and nearly all of their furnishings, appliances, and personal property. The house was a wreck, and even with his wife’s help, Mr. Pamela could no longer navigate it. With everything gone and no power, Allison didn’t know how she would care for her husband.
The repairs their home needed were well beyond anything the couple could afford — the requirements of full-time caregiving prevented Allison from working a paying job, and the couple had been surviving off of Social Security. Fortunately, the couple was granted financial assistance from FEMA, which helped with their emergency living expenses while they were temporarily displaced, as well as some of the smaller home repairs. But fully repairing their home would require an additional $30,000 that the Pamelas did not have, and so, with no other options, they moved back into their damaged home, no closer to the safe and stable life they deserved. Like many hurricane survivors, they simply accepted this situation as their new reality.
Then, in April of 2019, nearly a year and a half after the storm hit, the Pamelas connected with Endeavors, who quickly assigned a DCM to assess their situation and execute a customized recovery plan. The DCM dedicated hours to researching which of Endeavors’ many partner agencies would be best suited to help the Pamelas and submitted an application for assistance to Harvey Home Connect, a branch of the Greater Houston Community Foundation. Once the application was submitted, the recovery ball really started rolling.
The Harvey Home Connect Home Restoration Program assigned Team Rubicon (an international organization of Veterans that assists with disaster recovery) to restore the Pamelas’ home, which included completely gutting and replacing the walls, floors, bathroom, and kitchen. The team went above and beyond to make the home wheelchair accessible for Mr. Pamela and installed a walk-in shower and widened entryways so the couple could more easily navigate their own home.
For the four months that their home was being repaired, the DCM found the couple temporary housing at a local hotel and secured funds from the Salvation Army to cover the rental fees of storing their belongings. When the Pamelas finally received the keys to their like-new home, they also received new furniture and appliances from the Harris County Long-Term Recovery Committee’s Roundtable Assistance Program, and Cort Furniture.
The move-in date for the Pamela’s new home was set for June 2020, and the excitement was palpable. But, sadly, Mr. Pamela passed away in May, and Mrs. Pamela moved into their new home by herself. Nonetheless, Team Rubicon hosted a virtual “welcome home” party for Mrs. Pamela, and she carried her phone with her, filming herself seeing each room of her new home for the first time, smiling, laughing, and expressing her delight. And as she toured the house, she carried with her a framed photograph of her husband in his Army Infantry uniform, so that — even if only in spirit — he could see the beautiful house they could finally call home.
Picking Up The Pieces From a Natural Disaster? We’d Be Honored To Help
Endeavors continues to provide Disaster Case Management, referrals, and resources to Texans recovering from natural disasters in the Houston, Beaumont/Orange County, and Valley areas. We are dedicated to helping as many Texans as possible rebuild their homes and their lives. If you are in need of assistance, visit our website to learn more about our DCM services, or contact us at [email protected]. Though our teams are currently working remotely, we continue to provide our full ranges of services, and we invite you to contact us by phone, as well:
Endeavors is a longstanding national nonprofit that provides an array of programs and services in support of children, families, Veterans, and those struggling with mental illness and other disabilities. Endeavors serves vulnerable people in crisis through innovative personalized services. For more information, please visit www.endeavors.org.