About West Street Recovery

Contact Information

Our Story

West Street Recovery began as a few friends with a truck and inflatable kayak ferrying folks across the flood waters and sheltering those who couldn’t make it to family members in our own homes. After the worst danger passed, we moved onto feeding those in need and asking them directly what their friends, family, and neighbors required. This effort was followed by connecting donations from in and outside Houston to the mostly Black and Brown communities where we had been active. Even in the aftermath of Harvey, which showed so clearly our common humanity, these neighborhoods are being neglected by aid agencies and our governments.  As we distributed these supplies we began gathering lists of houses that needed to be cleaned out. We have been coordinating volunteer crews to do this work. In addition we helped families fill out FEMA forms, access disaster aid through other organizations, attain medical supplies, and even get legal help if that was what they needed.

Today, as you drive through Houston, it’s easy to miss the neighborhoods still devastated by the flooding. It’s six weeks since Harvey, but WSR is still meeting elderly couples living in houses with flooded furniture and walls, families staying at their in-laws, where their four children share the couch and floor space,  and households staying in tents on driveways because the temporary housing options offered to them are too far away from their jobs and schools. In these same neighborhoods, we’re meeting organizers who’ve been on the street identifying their community’s needs, individuals connecting truckloads of donations to families that lost everything, and community members who have visions for their communities where they have the resources, education, and connections to be a prospering, resilient, and self-reliant neighborhood.

West Street Recovery is a horizontal relief organization which aims to use the Harvey Recovery to build community power. Our driving principle is to work together with community members, not for them, or on their behalf. Our work is rooted in an understanding that certain communities were disproportionately impacted by Harvey because they lack access to resources and power, and that the same actors and forces which produced these inequities cannot be expected to adequately support these communities in recovery. We believe that the communities who were most harmed by Harvey are the people who best understand what can protect them in the future. The long term solutions to the problems that allowed the rain water to be so destructive need to be community driven, but residents need to be connected to the immense resources that currently exist to realize the future they envision. As an interclass, and interracial organization we are uniquely positioned to create these connections and help residents improve their neighborhoods in they ways they see fit.

Through our work, we have encountered many families that need ongoing support to rebuild their lives. We are currently working with over one hundred and fifty households who have been identified through canvassing efforts. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. This complexity means that depending totally on volunteer efforts is inadequate. To not only recover what was lost, but also to rebuild neighborhoods that are more resilient and powerful, and meet the needs of the families we work with, we need dedicated full-time staff. This will enable us to work with households on an individual basis connect them to people and places that can meet their immediate needs, organize volunteers to clean out and rebuild their homes and work with them to improve their lives.

One purpose of this fund raising campaign is to pay staff members assisting impacted families a fair and living wage.This fundraiser will also cover professional contract services provided by locally owned business in order to circulate funds in communities needing them the most and turning a catastrophe into an opportunity for job creation. In order to use the recovery to generate locally rooted economic growth, we will, whenever it is possible, continue purchasing the supplies we need for our efforts from businesses that are locally owned by People of Color and women.

To make these goals a reality, we need your help. Please support our effort to continue connecting communities to the resources and services they so badly need.

Money will be used for:

– Salaries for Full-time Staff members for the upcoming three months
– Professional Contracting services needed to rehabilitate homes
– Continue to purchase tools, supplies, tents, tarps, and other recovery needs
– Personal protective equipment to keep everyone safe and healthy
– Fuel and food for volunteers and team members doing the work
– Other needs that our impacted residents may need
– Working with NuWaters Coop to bring healthy food to communities.
– House cleanouts in the Mesa/Tidwell area.

 

pRINCIPLES OF OPERATION

We seek to follow the Jemez Principles for Democratic Organizing.

#1 Be Inclusive
If we hope to achieve just societies that include all people in decision-making and assure that all people have an equitable share of the wealth and the work of this world, then we must work to build that kind of inclusiveness into our own movement in order to develop alternative policies and institutions to the treaties policies under neoliberalism.

This requires more than tokenism, it cannot be achieved without diversity at the planning table, in staffing, and in coordination. It may delay achievement of other important goals, it will require discussion, hard work, patience, and advance planning. It may involve conflict, but through this conflict, we can learn better ways of working together. It’s about building alternative institutions, movement building, and not compromising out in order to be accepted into the
anti-globalization club.

#2 Emphasis on Bottom-Up Organizing
To succeed, it is important to reach out into new constituencies, and to reach within all levels of leadership and membership base of the organizations that are already involved in our networks. We must be continually building and
strengthening a base which provides our credibility, our strategies, mobilizations, leadership development, and the energy for the work we
must do daily.

#3 Let People Speak for Themselves
We must be sure that relevant voices of people directly affected are heard. Ways must be provided for spokespersons to represent and be responsible to
the affected constituencies. It is important for organizations to clarify their roles, and who they represent, and to assure accountability within our
structures.

#4 Work Together In Solidarity and Mutuality
Groups working on similar issues with compatible visions should consciously act in solidarity, mutuality and support each other’s work. In the long run, a
more significant step is to incorporate the goals and values of other groups with your own work, in order to build strong relationships. For instance, in the long run, it is more important that labor unions and community economic development projects include the issue of environmental sustainability in their own strategies, rather than just lending support to the
environmental organizations. So communications, strategies and resource sharing is critical, to help us see our connections and build on these.

#5 Build Just Relationships Among Ourselves
We need to treat each other with justice and respect, both on an individual and an organizational level, in this country and across borders. Defining and
developing “just relationships” will be a process that won’t happen overnight. It must include clarity about decision-making, sharing strategies, and resource distribution. There are clearly many skills necessary to succeed, and we need to determine the ways for those with different skills to coordinate and be accountable to one another.

#6 Commitment to Self-Transformation
As we change societies, we must change from operating on the mode of individualism to community-centeredness. We must “walk our talk.” We must be the values that we say we’re struggling for and we must be justice, be peace, be community.