Collaboration for a Happy Ending

Project Comeback: TEXAS is stronger from collaborations that happen across the region on behalf of families who are still recovering from Harvey.  In this case, Catholic Charities of Southeast Texas linked arms with Habitat for Humanity, Samaritan’s Purse and the Texas General Land Office (GLO) Homeowner Assistance Program to bring a client back to wholeness.

We’ll call our client “Joe.”  During Hurricane Harvey, Joe’s home received only a few inches of water, but there was a nasty wrinkle: the water was heavily contaminated with raw sewage from a nearby malfunctioning city sewage pump.  After discarding the carpeting and his furniture, Joe found multiple cracks in the foundation.  Habitat for Humanity agreed to provide repair.  Joe stayed with a family member for a period of time, and moved home before Habitat was completed, because he “just wanted to be home,” even if it meant sleeping on an air mattress in an empty room.

As Joe moved back into his home, Habitat discovered that the problem was worse than expected.  As it turns out, sewage had been leaking into a pocket below the foundation – a problem that goes beyond what Habitat can normally handle.

Joe submitted an application to the GLO’s “Homeowner Assistance Program” and was approved for a complete demolition and rebuild, which solved two issues at once.  The rebuild eliminated the leakage problem while raising the home two feet on piers, to elevate above Harvey flood water levels.

Catholic Charities of Southeast Texas was involved at various stages throughout the process, replacing appliances and furniture for a bedroom, as well as the living and dining rooms.  In addition, CCST provided rental and moving/storage assistance.  Samaritan’s Purse replaced furniture in a second bedroom.

Epilogue: Joe is back in a new home, built from the ground up.  And the air smells sweet, at last.

(Contributed by Catholic Charities of Southeast Texas)

After a Harrowing Escape, a Home Restored

Ruth and Clint Payne retired early and settled into life in their house tucked away in a bend of Dickinson Bayou.  In August 2017, the Paynes and their son Nicholas prepared to ride out Hurricane Harvey with their Australian Shepherds: seven dogs including five puppies.  Thinking they could always make a getaway in their four-wheel drive vehicle, they were surprised when floodwater pushed up the driveway.  “The water came up so fast, it was too late to get out,” said Clint.

As Harvey’s rain filled their neighborhood, the Paynes secured the dogs in kennels and placed them up in the attic to stay dry, then climbed up to join the dogs for the night, while water filled their home below.  In the morning, Clint somehow was able to swim through the water to find a ladder they used to climb onto their neighbor’s roof, where they waited for a boat to rescue them.  Later, family members boated back in to rescue the dogs.

Everything in their home was destroyed.  The Paynes had homeowner’s insurance, but it didn’t cover the damage and the FEMA money only went so far.  “We went through all of our savings,” said Clint.  Then, the Paynes heard about Catholic Charities’ Disaster Recovery Program.

Catholic Charities provided funding for final restoration work to be done in partnership with Fuller Disaster Rebuilders, which sends teams of volunteers around the country to help communities following disasters like Harvey.  In addition, Catholic Charities provided furniture so the Paynes can get their household back to normal.

(Contributed by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston)

A Backpack Brings Joy…and Other Good News

Mary* faced the new school year with dread.  A single mom, Mary had lost everything when Harvey destroyed her apartment in Orange – furniture, appliances, household goods.  The most precious things survived: Mary’s three kids – two teenagers and an 11-year-old daughter.  They had just moved into a new apartment and Mary was barely keeping the family afloat, while coping with having no vehicle to run essential errands.  The prospect of buying everything needed to get the kids ready for school created tremendous stress for Mary.  The stress lightened when Mary was connected to a disaster case manager with the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, who arranged for a private donation of three backpacks.  The simple gift brought so much joy that one of the girls started skipping down the driveway, so proud of her new backpack.

(Contributed by SVdP)

Will*, a disabled, retired Vietnam Veteran who lives in Freeport, lost all his belongings when his mobile home took on more than 6 inches of water from Harvey.  To make matters worse, the shed outside of his home, where he operated a small repair shop for oil rig equipment, was completely destroyed.  This was a major blow.  Will depended on the money to supplement his small social security income.

After several months waiting for assistance, Will was able to get his residence cleaned out and repaired, and even received help replacing many of the water-damaged personal items.  However, there appeared to be no way to assist with rebuilding the shed or removing the heavy equipment that was kept in it.  To make matters worse, the city had issued a citation, pressuring Will to get the place cleaned up, which triggered severe anxiety attacks.

The disaster case manager with The Alliance found a creative way to help by approaching the Houston-Galveston Sector of the US Coast Guard for volunteer assistance.  The Coast Guard group identified the nearest location of a large metal shredder, brought several pickup trucks, loaded the water damaged equipment and took it to the metal recycling center.  Then, the group spent the entire day cleaning up around the client’s home.  With the assistance of another volunteer, the client’s shed is being rebuilt with supplies and materials donated through the volunteer groups.

Will was grateful and delighted to share his war stories throughout the day with the group of service members.  He took his case manager’s business card to the city to show them how people who knew nothing about him, came to his rescue.

(Contributed by The Alliance)

Heartfelt Thanks From a Client

A note of thanks from someone who needed help, and received it, thanks to the work of a member of the Project Comeback: TEXAS consortium.  Congratulations to HOPE Disaster Response for providing caring, noteworthy help to the Harvey survivor.

“I just wanted to take a moment and send a quick note of thanks to you and your organization.  In a day where few voice nothing but complaints I wanted to take a moment to compliment your representative, Ms. Pamela Hawkins.

I am a Harvey flood SURVIVOR.  I took on some 20 inches in my house.  It has been a long and difficult road to recovery.  Recently I was made aware of your assistance program and thankfully I am a recipient of funding.  It was during the process that I had the pleasure of being assigned to Ms. Hawkins.  Professional, compassionate and responsive would be the words I would use to best describe my new friend Pamela.  Try as I do to be positive, times have become difficult as a result of the storm.  Ms. Hawkins, with compassion walked me through the process and assured me all will be good.

You are most fortunate to have Ms. Hawkins as a team member.  Thank you again for the assistance from your organization.

God Bless,

(Contributed by HOPE Disaster Response) 

Why Should My Organization Use DART?

DART is a next-generation solution built on VOAD standards that supports a multi-agency approach. The modules included in DART solve fundamental response and recovery challenges, and improve service delivery to disaster survivors.

This is a tool that has been designed by VOAD members, for VOAD members, that encourages us to collaborate together. DART will support progress and help measure impact to drive better decision management & advocacy for all National VOAD members. Our belief is that DART's innovative modules, and analytics are the most efficient tools available to our members.

How Do I Access DART?

DART will be available for State/Territory VOADs across all fifty-six States and Territories. DART modules will be activated by request of State/Territory VOADs with priority given to those who have been trained in advance. If you’d like to begin the training process for your State/Territory VOAD, please email [email protected]

State/Territory VOADs activate DART within their State/Territory. Coordinate with the State VOADs where you are active. Permissions will be defined and granted to lead personnel so you can control the use and access to different modules within your organization.

Texas VOAD Statement Regarding Imelda Response

Tropical Storm Imelda caused catastrophic flooding and devastation in East Texas.  Some areas received up to 40 inches of rain in just a matter of hours. Initial estimates put the devastation at over 3,492 homes with major damage and/or destroyed due to rising floodwaters; Individual Assistance Preliminary Damage Assessments are still ongoing.  Texas VOAD member agencies have been very active in response to Tropical Storm Imelda.  Since September 17th, these agencies have been providing mass care sheltering, feeding, bulk distribution, damage assessments, emergency food boxes, clean-up kits, personal care and comfort kits, blankets, mucking & gutting assistance, and many more services to the residents of East Texas.

The State of Texas has requested a major disaster declaration for Individual Assistance for 6 counties.  Since 2015, these six counties have been included in six  major disaster declarations.  Notably, in August of 2017, this area was significantly impacted by Hurricane Harvey and suffered devastating flooding.  As a result, Texans, first responders across the state, local officials, and voluntary organizations are exhausted. Voluntary organizations in particular are suffering from volunteer fatigue and little money coming into our organizations to assist Texans. The last several years have taken a toll on the people and the property of Texas. Texans are resilient, however few can recover without assistance when disasters hit one right after another, especially when the affected locations are recovering from previous disasters. Texans will overcome these challenges, however assistance is needed from our National VOAD partners in order to do so.

If your organization is interesting in helping Texas communities impacted by Imelda, please contact:

Kathy Clark (TXVOAD President) – [email protected]

Damian Morales (TXVOAD Secretary) – [email protected]