POST-HARVEY RECOVERY AND VOLUNTEERING

by J. Vazquez

August 15th, 2018

As my daughter is preparing to leave for her 2nd year in college, I couldn’t help but remember the events that took place a year ago. After I got her settled in her dorm, I was spending the rest of the weekend in New York and was not really watching the news. Talking to my wife, I had no idea of the extent of the devastation Harvey was producing in the Houston area. A few hours before my scheduled return flight, I found out that Hobby Airport had been closed due to flooding and ended having to spend a few more days in NYC. As we all know, things got worse from there. We were very fortunate that neither our house nor 3DENT’s office were affected, but there was no way to ignore the disaster.

When I finally made it back to Houston a week later, I did some volunteer work but I confess that for me it didn’t take long for life to get back to “normal.” This reminds me of how I felt right after Hurricane Katrina when we lived in New Orleans – fully escaping its devastating effects. But, we can’t forget that many people are still dealing with the effects of the storm, and we can’t stop looking for ways to help or at least be understanding of their situation - Not yet! 

Interestingly enough, the Houston Chronicle just published an editorial titled A year after Harvey, Houston needs to stay mad. While reading this story, I also came across the fourth installment in a series entitled Rebuilding myself: An occasional series by Sara Cress, which shows the below picture from the recent July 4th flooding. Two things happened this past month that give me a strong reminder of how lasting the Harvey effects are and will continue to be.

The first event that has given me a strong reminder that while life does go on, not everyone has returned to normal after the storm was with Rebuilding Together Houston. I don’t even remember where/how I came across Rebuilding together Houston, but I went to their website almost 2 months ago and signed up to volunteer. The organization is a lot like Habitat for Humanity, with the major difference being that Habitat builds new houses while Rebuilding helps homeowners with repairs. Rebuilding’s focus these days is largely on Harvey-related repairs that still need to be completed. It’s been a while since I did volunteer work for Habitat, and when I did, it was always as part of a group effort. In the past, I have tried to volunteer as an individual, but somehow I couldn’t do it alone. So, when I saw that Rebuilding together Houston offered volunteer opportunities I immediately signed up and spent the last Saturday in July painting the exterior of a house in North Houston. 

I was part of a group mostly consisting of young people with the Associated Builders & Contractors of Greater Houston. Most of the volunteers were in their mid- to late twenties or early thirties and full of energy.  At first, I wondered if we’d be able to finish the task (scraping old paint, caulking, applying a coat of primer and then painting), but we were done by 1:30pm, and the result looked far better than I expected. So, it was a great experience. One that I plan to do more often and I’d encourage all to do from time to time.

Scraping and priming – Photo by RtH staff (cropped by JV)

Volunteers + RtH staff + Home owner w/daughter – Photo by RtH staff (cropped by JV)

My second recent experience, and I fully realize that this is nowhere close to the same, is that our family is experiencing a watered-down version of what it feels like to be displaced from your home due to flooding. Forgive the pun, but I say that our experience is a watered-down version because while we had to move temporarily out of our house for repairs due to water damage, the degree of damage was very localized and we did not lose furniture or get any dirty water in our house, nor were we in danger at any point.

In our case, the damage was from a defective bathtub. The effect, though, was far greater than what I would have imagined. Once our insurance adjustor came in to inspect the issue, their conclusion was that given the open plan of our house ALL floors (downstairs and upstairs) needed to be repaired as they would not be able to make a localized repair without having a visible difference in the new vs old flooring. The same was true of the paint – the entire interior of the house will be painted!
 
We are told this work will take ~8 weeks, and I am happy to say that our insurance company (CHUBB) has far surpassed any expectations I had in dealing with a home issue. (I didn’t know this before, but apparently CHUBB has an A++ rating for home insurance, with only USAA having a higher rating). They immediately arranged for us to move to a hotel and less than 2 weeks later into an apartment, both pet-friendly as we have 2 cats. 

Again, I am fully aware that there is no real comparison between our recent “flooding” experience to having your house flooded during a storm, but it is enough for me to relate better to the feeling of being displaced and having to re-arrange your “normal” life after such an event. As we get closer to the anniversary of the storm, more and more of us feel that things are getting back to normal – as it should. But, we can’t forget that not everybody has fully recovered and that help is still needed.

I close with a quote I found on AID STILL REQUIRED’s website: JUST BECAUSE IT LEFT THE HEADLINES DOESN’T MEAN IT LEFT THE PLANET.”

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