Texas Housers is committed to ensuring that Harvey recovery efforts include low-income disaster victims and rebuild affected areas better than before. We’re tracking all the recovery news from and sharing the best of it here with our own perspective.
In the coming months you will find Texas Housers original research and reporting alongside news roundups. For now, you can find our 22-page Recover Rights and Principles declaration at the bottom of the page.
Rosanne Barone, of the advocacy group Texas Campaign for the Environment was quoted by PBS Newshour in a piece about Superfund sites and their impact on human health.
The whole Superfund process is just so screwed up for a number of reasons that these sites just sit there with these highly toxic materials just sitting there right in the open, right in the middle of people’s areas where they live. They were causing problems anyway and then when a hurricane hits it just makes it a million times worse.”
(Associated Press via Houston Chronicle)
The Kaiser Family Foundation and Episcopal Health Foundation have released a report of survey data collected in the 24 counties hit by Harvey. The report found that 66% of respondents suffered income or property loss as a result of the storm and that residents along the Golden Coast were particularly struggling to rebuild. The entire report can be accessed here.
HOUSEHOLD EXPOSURE CONCERNS FOR HIV+ DISASTER SURVIVORS
HIV positive patients and their doctors are concerned with Harvey-related complications. Missed medications, stress over displacement, crowded temporary housing, exposure to mold and contaminated floodwaters pose a special risk to the weakened immune systems of HIV patients.
(Kaiser Health News)
FOLLOWING THE NUMBERS
A new accountability scorecard has been released tracking the spending of federal funds, private charities and the Red Cross during Harvey recovery.
(The Texas Tribune)
CHILD HOMELESSNESS ASSESSED
More than three months after Hurricane Harvey 22,000 school-aged children remain in precarious housing.
THANKSGIVING IN TENT CITY
30 people are still living in a tents at the Rockport Relief Camp on the Texas coast following displacement from Hurricane Harvey.
(The American Statesman)
RURAL RECOVERY STALLING IN FULTON
Mayor Jimmy Kendrick of Fulton, Texas offered a rural perspective on recovery efforts. The mayor claims that 67% of properties in the small town have been damaged as a result of Hurricane Harvey with many of the town’s 1,500 residents camping outside, doubling up or living in hotels as they navigate the red tape of receiving assistance dollars and insurance payments.
HOUSTON’S EAST END REBUILDS
A three-part series will follow Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts with a focus on the impact of the storm on low-income survivors and community-led responses.
(Voice of America)
EXPLORE FEMA DATA BY NUMBERS
Rebecca Elliot has created a map of displaced Harvey survivors housed by FEMA in hotels state- and nationwide. The data will be updated as available. For more on FEMA’s motel voucher program and its proposed alternative scroll to our 10/9/17 post.
U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) in a public letter to Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long.
We urge you to enter an Interagency Agreement (IAA) with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
HUD has a vital role in addressing the housing needs of disaster survivors. HUD has decades of experience providing housing opportunities to some of our nation’s most vulnerable individuals families – including low income seniors, people with disabilities, families with children, veterans, people experiencing homelessness, and other at-risk populations who are often the hardest-hit by disasters and have the fewest resources to recover afterwards.
When disaster strikes, a major problem is displacement. Tens of thousands of homes have been destroyed and families have been in temporary shelters. That is the case now in Texas, Florida, the Virgin Islands, and especially Puerto Rico, where an estimated 10,000 people are living in shelters. Through a network of existing programs, HUD may help victims to live in a safe, stable, and affordable home while they work to get back on their feet by providing rental assistance directly to survivors. For example, HUD may elect to use its existing network of local Public Housing Authorities (PHA) to administer tenant based rental assistance and provide case management services to impacted families. To achieve this, FEMA – your agency – must enter into an agreement for HUD to help carry out FEMA’s Individual Assistance programs. FEMA and HUD have had IAA after other major recent disasters, like Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. We urge you to enter into an agreement with HUD immediately so that thousands of families and individuals have access to stable, affordable rental homes after enduring a nightmarish ordeal of displacement from their home.
GULF COAST MAYORS DISCUSS HARVEY IMPACT
Gulf Coast mayors gathered at a panel the other day to discuss the impact of Hurricane Harvey on their communities. While understandably much attention has been focused on the immeadiate Houston area following the storm, media attention on impacted areas like Port Arthur, Rockport, Port Aransas and more helps in the fight to secure sufficient funding for everyone impacted to rebuild.
(Video and Event from The Texas Tribune)
HOUSTON CO-DIRECTOR ON EQUITABLE RECOVERY PANEL AT UT’S TEXAS OPPORTUNITY FORUM
Earlier this month Texas Housers Houston Co-Director Chrishelle Palay sat on a panel, at the University of Texas Opportunity Forum about equitable disaster recovery.
The panel, moderated by Professor Heather Way, also featured Rebecca Elliott (Houston Chronicle), Tom McCasland (Housing and Community Development Department, City of Houston), Andreanecia M. Morris (HousingNOLA), and Dr. Shannon Van Zandt (Texas A & M University)
You can watch the full panel below.
TEXAS DELEGATION VOTES AGAINST RELIEF FUNDING FOR PUERTO RICO & FLORIDA
It’s been widely reported that a Texas Congressional delegation, led by Gov. Abbott, threaten to vote against disaster relief funding because funds are not earmarked for Texas.
(The Texas Tribune)
Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.), whose district saw wind and flood damage from Harvey on the proposal by the House to authorize more than $30 billion in additional disaster relief and debt forgiveness.
You’ve got to be careful not to turn this into a Christmas tree, but I think the American people demand that Congress have a big heart and keep their promises to the people who were struck by a disaster.
FOLLOWING THE NUMBERS
The National Low Income Housing Coalition released new numbers on approved assistance funds.
- 319,363 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved
- $1,040,581,528 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
- $794,012,800 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
- $246,568,727 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved
- $327,886,760 Public Assistance Grants (PA) obligated** all of which are for Emergency Work (Categories A-B)
*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.
**Funds made available to the State via electronic transfer following FEMA’s final review and approval of Public Assistance projects.
DEBRIS MISMANGAMEMENT IN PORT ARTHUR VIOLATES FEDERAL LAW
Lone Star Legal Aid reports that Debris Management Site (DMS) has been operating for over a month near a low-income minority neighborhood in Port Arthur. This revelation flies in the face of regulations requiring sites to be operated away from away from schools, neighborhoods, and local businesses they might harm or disrupt. The regulation filed in 1994 and known as Executive Order 12898 also requires localities receiving federal funds from a source like FEMA to evaluate their actions for disproportionately high and adverse effects on minority or low-income populations and find ways to avoid or minimize adverse impacts. Attorneys at Lone Star Legal Aid have demanded the City of Port Arthur close the DMS as soon as possible.
EVENT: TOP DOOR-KNOCKING
Join the Texas Organizing Project this Saturday starting at 10 a.m. at the TOP office (2404 Caroline St, Houston, TX 77004) as they launch their largest effort yet to knock on the doors of people directly impacted by Harvey. More than 60 people have already signed up to help us assess the needs of our neighbors so that we can help meet those needs, whether through direct assistance or by publicly pressuring the agency that is best suited to help.Don’t worry if you’ve never done this before. TOP will offer training from 10 a.m. to 12 noon. Then canvassers will go into the TOP neighborhoods. Sign up here. For more information, contact Tarasha at (713) 566-0551.
TEXAS HOUSERS CO-DIRECTOR ON CAPITOL HILL
Chrishelle Palay, Texas Housers Houston co-director, was a panelist in a Washington Capitol Hill briefing on Hurricane Harvey recovery issues. Chrishelle told lawmakers and their aides:
- Congress should direct FEMA to immediately enter into an agreement with HUD to replace the motel voucher program with Disaster Housing Assistance program (DHAP).
- Many Hurricane Harvey survivors have been displaced at least temporarily from their homes with no indication when their homes can be repaired or replaced.
- The existing FEMA motel voucher program provides short-term, crowded housing that is subject to ending every two weeks. This puts families in a precarious situation.
- DHAP worked in pervious disasters better that a motel voucher program. DHAP provides stability and better housing for survivors.
- Congress prevent HUD waiving the low- and moderate income targeting of CDBG-DR funds
- Some Texas members of Congress have requested a waiver for this provision of the Housing and Community Development Act, suggesting that the threshold for families to be assisted with CDBG-DR be lowered to 50%.
- There has been an unfortunate past record of low- and moderate-income families not receiving needed assistance to rebuild. Many low- and moderate-income survivors lack the funds or insurance proceeds to rebuild and recover with CDBG-DR. This is why the threshold exists – to help those who have little or no recourse.
- FEMA damage assessments are not completed now. The appropriate time for waivers is once the number and amount of assistance needed by disaster survivors at different income levels is known.
- Program transparency: Objective needs data, not political decisions should determine how disaster recovery funds are spent.
- Congress should require that FEMA and HUD make all information about disaster needs and the state’s recovery process available to the public to understand and comment on.
- The public needs to be able know who has an unmet needs and how public spending is addressing those needs before HUD approves the state’s Action Plan for spending.
- Equitable flood control infrastructure must be built in low-income neighborhoods
- Low-income neighborhoods have never had adequate flood control infrastructure. In Houston for instance, more than 80% of open ditch drainage is in communities of color. Of those open ditches, more than 40% do not stop flooding during even modest rainfall.
- Federal funds should address these existing inequities to provide equal storm water protection to low-income communities of color.
LAWS SUSPENDED DURING HARVEY INCLUDE SAFETY & ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONS
More than 200 state laws and regulations have been suspended by Gov. Greg Abbott since Hurricane Harvey hit. The suspension was intended to speed up recovery efforts by reducing red tape, but among the 214 regulations suspended include standards meant to prevent air and water pollution, preserve hospital safety, and limit the spread of disease among horses and livestock.
(Dallas Morning News)
FEMA’s MOTEL PROGRAM EXTENDED, BUT STILL INSUFFICIENT
FEMA’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance program (AKA the “motel voucher program”) has been extended two weeks until Oct 24. As of today, that more than 24,500 households are currently sheltered in some 2000 motels.
Note: The motel voucher programs has its critics (including Texas Housers) who decry the longterm hidden cost to disaster survivors (loss of privacy, storage fees, lack of kitchen space and the price of eating out) and the precarious nature of the program as guaranteed assistance expires every two weeks. A proposed alternative would have FEMA contract with HUD to establish a long-term disaster voucher scheme similar to successful programs in previous hurricanes. This program, known as the disaster housing assistance program or DHAP, recognizes the need of disaster survivors for long-term housing in apartments rather than short-term stays in motels.
(The Houston Chronicle)
FOLLOWING THE NUMBERS
The Texas Tribune released its first accountability scorecard tracking the spending of federal funds, private charities and the Red Cross during Harvey recovery.
(The Texas Tribune)
APARTMENT DWELLERS LEFT CONFUSED
Disaster recovery efforts focus disproportionately on homeowners; neglecting the needs and questions of renters, many of whom live in apartments. This guide containing information from the Texas Apartment Association offers initial recommendations on returning to an apartment post-disaster.
DEBRIS DROP-OFF SITES IN HOUSTON-AREA
As Houstonians return to their homes many are contending with the debris left by Harvey. A list of debris drop-off and management sites around Houston has been posted, it is not clear how long each site will remain open.
(The Houston Chronicle)
KEEP IT? TOSS IT?
Hurricane Harvey survivors are returning to flooded-out living spaces to assess the damage done by the storm. This guide outlines what is safe to keep and what ought to be thrown away to reduce the risk of long-term exposure related illness.
(The Houston Chronicle)
RECOVERY RIGHTS AND PRINCIPLES