Harvey’s Devastation Had The Most Impact In Areas Of Lowest Income

Hurricane Harvey was good at spreading misery over people of all incomes. But in places where resources were already slim, Harvey was the last thing they needed.

By Craig LeMoult, WGBHSeptember 14, 2017 12:37 pm

From Houston Public Media:

Pedro Cantu and his nephew Alvino throw tires, building materials, and other trash into a giant pile outside his Rosenberg home. A small fire disposes of some of the debris that’s more easily burned than carted away.

He said it rained for three or four days,” says Alvino, translating for his uncle. “And then after the third or fourth day the Brazos came over the banks. So and that that’s when it really got bad. That’s when he got up to about three foot, or – about three feet on the house.”

It hasn’t been that long since the last time his house got flooded.

Last year. About 15 months ago,” he says.

Last Memorial Day, a storm hit Rosenberg hard. But Cantu says this time, the flooding was even worse.

“This time maybe about three, four inch more” Cantu says.

He says part of the financial hit he’s taking now is that he has to rent an apartment while the house is repaired.

And you could take anywhere from one to two months. God knows how long.”

A team of eight young volunteers from all over the country just spent about four hours cutting out sheet rock, removing wet insulation and cleaning floors. They came here on their own, and wound up volunteering for the group Friends of North Rosenberg.

Rose Pickens of the group brings them all lunch. But they have a little trouble getting an accurate head count.

There is one positive thing about the fact that this community was severely flooded last year. Pickens says this time people knew to get out, and take as much as they could with them.

“They took their clothes, they took their furniture, their appliances, they took the doors, they took the cabinets and they evacuated,” Pickens says.

At another home the group is gutting not far away, Pickens looks down a street lined with piles of debris in front of each home.

“If you can just imagine where we’re currently standing. Water was up to about right here, where we are,“ she says.

She holds her hand up at the level of her ear. Down the road is a dead cotton field – the plants all brown except for an occasional tuft of white cotton peeking out.

“There’s going to definitely be a corps of engineers as well as administration from the county and the city that’s going to definitely have to look at why, in such a short period of time these areas have flooded, and what can we do to prevent that from happening again,” Pickens says.

Not far away, Our Lady of Guadalupe has become something of a one-stop shop for recovery. The church is serving meals, and Project Hope has set up a medical clinic there, which is busy helping patients manage hypertension and other symptoms of the storm’s stress, as well as chronic health problems like diabetes that may have gone untreated in the weeks after the flood. Dolores Yañez is the wife of a deacon, and an all-around go-to person for the church and its outreach to the community.

“What they want is cleaning supplies and building materials. So we need plywood, sheetrock, insulation, and then we’re going to need appliances to rebuild their homes,” Yañez says.

Yañez says they went out to homes to let people know the resources the church is offering.

“And some of them said no we’re afraid we’re going to be deported. So we’re still trying to reach out to them,” she says.

In Rosenberg, there’s one key way Harvey’s different than the 2016 Memorial Day flood. Yañez says last time, the church became a FEMA disaster recovery center.

“But they told me because of Irma, they said you’re not going to be a FEMA center this year,” she says.

Now, the closest FEMA center is 16 miles away in Simonton, and she says getting there is a challenge for a lot of people. A spokesperson for FEMA says at this point, the agency is not taking away resources from Texas. And he says the FEMA is opening new disaster recovery centers on a daily basis. If one does open up here, they’re going to have a lot of work to do.