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 gathering and distributing food and supplies and asking NE Houston residents directly what their friends, family, and neighbors required. This effort was followed by connecting donations from in and outside Houston to mostly Black and Brown communities that had fallen through the corporate charities and the governments’ cracks. As we distributed these supplies, we began gathering lists of houses that needed to be cleaned out and spent two months organizing volunteer crews to muck out houses. In addition, we have helped families fill out FEMA forms, access disaster aid through other organizations, attain medical supplies and legal assistance.
Today, as you drive through Houston, it’s easy to miss the neighborhoods still devastated by the flooding. But we’re still meeting families struggling to make progress on putting their homes and lives back together. We are currently working with more than 150 households identified through canvassing efforts. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for their recovery and this complexity means that depending 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 enables 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.