Hurricane Harvey was by far the worst disaster to ever hit Houston.
From the moment Harvey made landfall on August 25, 2017 until it quit raining four days later, four feet of rain (equivalent to an average yearly rainfall) fell in the Greater Houston Region. It was referred to as an ‘event of Biblical proportions’ and a ‘once in 800 years flood’. There had never seen a storm of this magnitude ever recorded. Harvey left a grim reminder of its devastation - hundreds of thousands in need of disaster relief, recovery and rebuilding.
Mission Centers of Houston (MCH), a 57-year old inner city mission in Houston with three community centers, weathered the storm, as did nearly all of the residents it served. That gave MCH the ability to assist in the recovery effort immediately. Because most of the roads leading into the city were impassible at the time, and because MCH did not have the means to host temporary shelters two staff members took food, toiletries, clothing and baby supplies from the on-hand stock and delivered them to the George R Brown Convention Center.
Once the inbound roads to Houston were open and MCH’s remaining staff members were able to get to their centers the decision was made to re-open to continue the mission of meeting the communities’ physical and spiritual needs. Community residents began coming to the centers for help in finding food that was hard to get, plus they wanted to get back to a sense of normalcy as soon as possible.
Soon after the ‘mucking out’ of homes across the city began, there was a growing need for housing volunteer teams from across the United States who would come to Houston to help with the process. Since MCH has ample room in their facilities and the ability to house teams of people (this is what they do every summer) they began offering their facilities to any teams that needed a place to lodge while helping with the clean up in Houston. A Disaster Relief Fund to receive donations to help people who were affected by Harvey was also set up.
Once word was out that MCH had the ability to store both perishable and non-perishable items, and had the ability and willingness to distribute food to displaced families, many churches and organizations, both in Houston and as far away as Wisconsin, began sending food, toiletries and cleaning supplies to distribute to anyone in need. MCH used those donations to serve at least 1,000 people during September at both the Joy and Gano Mission Centers. Additionally, they loaded their van and box truck several times to take and distribute these supplies to the Fondren area in SW Houston, East Houston and Aldine area. Houston area churches also began coming to MCH directly to house teams of volunteers so they provided lodging from September through December at both centers.
In October MCH began a partnership with Henderson Hills Baptist Church of Edmond, Oklahoma. MCH would provide lodging for their mission teams while they performed relief and recovery work. Several teams came and did ‘mucking out’ work. During one of those trips their trip leader and MCH’s Executive Director did a survey of the flood damage in the Kashmere Gardens, Trinity Gardens and East Houston areas. After learning that there were thousands of uninsured homeowners in these under-resourced areas who were displaced from their homes and not receiving any help, the decision was made to begin focusing on helping people in these areas get back in their homes. Henderson Hills would continue to send teams and MCH would continue to house them and utilize those funds donated for disaster relief for the recovery work.
The teams from Oklahoma began coming to help several homeowners in Trinity Gardens and East Houston. They finished ‘mucking out’ the homes and sprayed to make sure mold wouldn’t form. New plumbing had to be installed in one home and new insulation, drywall and flooring was replaced in several others. By the end of November most all of the homes had new insulation and drywall. The team also helped take down a tree that had been uprooted in the storm.
After Thanksgiving the Oklahoma teams would not be back until after the first of the year, but there was still much work to do. MCH didn’t have volunteer teams to oversee the work needed. There was no network to call on and no one coordinating the work in NE Houston. So, using donated disaster relief funds, MCH hired a temporary part time Disaster Relief Coordinator to oversee the work and use paid contracting crews to continue the work. Subsequently several homes were finished out, including drywall floating, texturing and painting, trim work, and installation of new kitchen cabinets, plumbing and lighting fixtures.
Since October MCH has provided assistance in helping people who have relocated from shelters into apartments. They were provided with clothing, household goods, food, personal items, a hug and a prayer.
The networking of organizations that MCH has been involved with to do disaster recovery work has provided the inspiration behind the formation of the NE Houston Disaster Recovery Network. Without many volunteers and the financial and material resources needed to rebuild Northeast Houston it will never get done. The residents of Northeast Houston simply don’t have the means to get it done on their own. It is going to take a network of churches, organizations and businesses working together. NE Houston Disaster Recovery is the unifying and coordinating network by which this can happen. And, because Mission Centers of Houston is the lead partner in the network and has a desire to invest in Northeast Houston after the rebuilding is done, it will help NE Houston be ready for a future disaster. Through the relationships we will build within the community and with partner churches and organizations during the recovery process it will result in the establishment of new community-based mission centers throughout Northeast Houston.
In the area NE Houston Disaster Recovery is working, FEMA reports over 41,000 homes were damaged by Hurricane Harvey and city statistics in those zip codes show very, very few had flood insurance. It is believed that less than 10% of the homes have been repaired.