West Street Recovery


West Street Recovery (WSR) is a horizontally structured grassroots organization which aims to use the disaster recovery process to build community power. Our work is rooted in an understanding that disasters amplify previously existing inequalities. There are no natural disasters: the destruction of climate disasters is produced by social, racial, and political factors. Throughout the disaster recovery process, marginalized people and their communities are denied access to resources and influence; the same actors and forces which produced these inequities cannot be expected to deliver a just recovery. We aim to shift resources and decision-making power to flood survivors and frontline communities, because the people most harmed by storms are also the ones who best understand what can protect them in the future.
Brindando servicios esenciales, como reparaciones en el hogar, asistencia financiera y casos gestión, para los sobrevivientes de inundaciones, WSR ayuda a desarrollar vínculos entre personas de diferentes antecedentes, y estas relaciones son los bloques de construcción de nuestra interclase e interracial comunidad. Esta red está orientada tanto a mejorar materialmente la vida de las personas como a construir poder político para los residentes del noreste de Houston.

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Estado de la misión

West Street Recovery’s mission is to connect communities to the resources that they need to not only rebuild after climate disasters such as Hurricane Harvey, but to build communities that are resilient,  secure and stronger than before. 

Nuestros comienzos

WSR comenzó durante el huracán Harvey como unos pocos amigos con un camión y un kayak inflable que transportaban a la gente a través de las aguas de la inundación y protegían a aquellos que no podían llegar a sus familiares en nuestros propios hogares. Pasamos el mes después de la inundación coordinando y distribuyendo decenas de miles de dólares en suministros y comidas a los residentes de Kashmere Gardens, Trinity Gardens y Lakewood, vecindarios a los que las organizaciones de ayuda más grandes tardaron en llegar. Después de que se abordaron las necesidades inmediatas de supervivencia, WSR pasó a destripar hogares y con el tiempo ayudamos a eliminar los muebles, paredes, gabinetes y otros materiales porosos inundados de más de 75 hogares. 

Desde entonces, WSR se ha convertido en una organización sin fines de lucro durante todo el año que ha respondido a múltiples desastres posteriores, incluida la tormenta tropical Imelda en 2019, la pandemia Covid 19 y la tormenta invernal Uri en 2021.

Read More about the history of WSR in our Base Doc

Check out these zines we made in our first year to document our experience: A Window Propped Open and Lessons Learned Organizing After Harvey.

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WSR tiene la visión de que la comunidad a la que estamos ayudando a recuperarse hoy puede organizarse y volverse más resistente antes de que ocurra el próximo desastre. Imaginamos un futuro donde las redes de miembros de la comunidad que operan en solidaridad y respeto mutuo hacen que la ciudad de Houston sea resistente frente a los desastres naturales y provocados por el hombre. Imaginamos un futuro en el que las soluciones a los desastres no incorporen aún más los procesos que han hecho a los residentes vulnerables tanto económica como ambientalmente, sino que son el comienzo de un crecimiento arraigado localmente que fortalece a las comunidades, empodera a los residentes y genera resiliencia.

Nuestra Comunidad

Nuestra comunidad está formada por cinco elementos superpuestos que trabajan juntos para gobernar WSR y profundizar nuestras propias habilidades de liderazgo, reparar hogares, construir poder comunitario y desarrollar actores sociales dentro del vecindario que puedan efectuar los cambios necesarios para una recuperación equitativa de Harvey y para hacer el mundo más justo y humano.

FOUNDERS AND STAFF: WSR was founded as a community-level response to Hurricane Harvey and continues to be democratically led by this group of 12-15 people who make strategic decisions through consensus. Eight of these core members are the staff of WSR.

FLOOD-IMPACTED RESIDENTS: WSR has a caseload of 275 households, about 100 of who are in close contact with WSR, and over 100 of whom have received signifıcant material aid, in the form of home repair, mucking and gutting, or direct fınancial assistance.

VOLUNTEERS AND ALLIES: WSR has worked with over 400 volunteers, and has a core group of approximately 35 volunteers who have invested signifıcant time into the organization. We also work with many closely allied advocacy and organizing groups with whom we have relationships of mutual support.

CONSTRUCTION CONTRACTORS AND RESIDENT WORKERS: WSR has 5-10 consistent contractors and 25 day laborers that help shape and lead our rebuild work. We focus on hiring people who live in the neighborhoods where we work, friends and families of clients, and those who were also affected by the hurricane.

COMMUNITY GROUPS: Two distinct community groups driven by residents and flood survivors themselves have emerged within the broader West Street community. The Northeast Action Collective is organizing on issues of inadequate drainage in northeast Houston, while the Harvey Forgotten Survivors Caucus is demanding fair treatment from the city of Houston’s Home Repair program. Read more about these groups on our community organizing page.

Staff bios


Doris Brown (She/Her, born 1949)
Co-Director of Community Research, Organizing, and Development 

Doris is a co-founder of the Northeast Action Collective (NAC) and a lifelong resident of Northeast Houston. She joined staff at West Street in June of 2020. Doris grew up in 5th Ward and Kashmere Gardens and has lived in Scenic Woods for 56 years. She graduated from HCC with a degree in Human Service Technology and Certification in Mental Health. In 2016 she graduated from University of Houston with a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies. Doris started as an activist in the civil rights movement when she was 13 years old, following her instinct of “if it’s not right I want to fight”. She participated in the historic TSU sit-ins in the ‘60s against segregation. Doris is on the advisory boards for the HIVE fund and the Houston Climate Justice Museum.

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Ben Hirsch (He/Him, born 1989)
Co-Director of Organizing, Research,
and Development

Ben has worked with WSR since its founding and helped to launch the Harvey home repair program, facilitates the NAC and is deeply motivated to develop collective political strategy and collective models of leadership. He is a graduate of the LBJ school of Public Affairs where he studied the intersection of poverty and the environment and alternative forms of governance. He has done organizing work on environmental justice and economic justice since participating in resistance to the G-20 Summit in Toronto, ON in 2009. He has one child and is a performing musician and a published author.


Felix Kapoor (He/Him, born 1987)
Co-Director of Rebuild and Organizing 

Felix started as a volunteer for West Street during Hurricane Harvey, and was hired on full time staff in May of 2019. Some of Felix’s accomplishments within West Street include launching our Harvey Repair Program and Winter Storm Uri Programs, growing the Northeast Action Collective, supporting our Covid19 cash distribution program, and launching our Language Justice interpretation training. He is a fellow of the inaugural resiliency fellowship hosted by ConnectiveHTX. Felix is a native Houstonian and loves to run, bike, cook, and seek out hammocks to lay in.  


Alice Liu (She/Her, born 1999)
Co-Director of Communications, Organizing and Disaster Preparedness

Alice joined WSR as an intern in the summer of 2020, and returned as staff in January 2021. In 2023 Alice helped lead WSR’s campaign to win millions of dollars of drainage infrastructure money for Northeast Houston. She also writes (grants, newsletters, and speeches) and helps facilitate the hub house program. Alice is passionate about movement building and connecting the struggle of disaster recovery in Northeast Houston to climate action across the gulf south and dignity and justice across the world.


Andrew Barley (He/Him, born 1989)
Co-Director of Rebuild Efforts and Voter Engagement

Barley has worked with West Street Recovery since its founding. Barley (he’s got a weird affinity for his last name) helped launch West Street’s home repair program and is currently most excited for West Street’s community led training and voter initiatives. He is a graduate of St. Thomas University. In his free time he enjoys outdoors and  volunteering with the Woods Project. Prior to joining West Street Recovery he served two Americorps terms, including a year with SBP Disaster Recovery.


Becky Selle (She/They, born 1992)
Co-Director of Disaster Preparedness, Organizing, and Operations

Becky joined WSR two weeks after Harvey through mucking homes. She’s since helped create the home repair program, community research efforts, the Northeast Action Collective, and most recently, the Hub Homes program. She is passionate about developing our practice of popular education, accessibility, and collective building and governance through process design and hands-on-learning. She’s also excited about breaking down science, tech, and complex policy for building community power. Her background is in medical engineering, public health, and outdoor education.

Beth Lumia Profile

Beth Lumia (She/her, born 1998) 
Co-Director of Disaster Preparedness
and Organizing

Beth began with WSR as a Graduate Student Intern as part of her course work at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. After graduating in May 2023 with her MSW, Beth then joined the WSR team in January 2024. She works closely with the Northeast Action Collective and is a co-coordinator of the Hub House program. As a former AmeriCorps member, Beth has a background in education, peace and justice studies, and disaster response.


Tracy Hamblin (She/her) 
Co-Director of Rebuild

Tracy has worked with West Street since its founding, learning and practicing building skills first as a volunteer until she joined WSR part time and as a full time staff member in January 2023. Tracy most enjoys being able to connect with residents, help empower and motivate community to share mutual support and to work on a horizontally organized team. A mother of 3 and a native Houstonian, Tracy has had her hand in many community oriented efforts like urban gardening programs, food sharing and birth and breastfeeding advocacy.


Brenda Tijerina (She/they, born 1993) 
Co-Director of Organizing, Research, and Disaster Prep

Brenda started volunteering with West Street Recovery after Winter Storm Uri in February 2021 and joined the staff in January 2023. She leads community research of drainage infrastructure systems, and is co-coordinator of the Hub House, Solar, and Flood Insurance Programs. Brenda graduated from the University of Houston in 2022 with a degree in Architecture. Brenda also organizes with the No Border Wall Coalition in Laredo.


Cavanaugh Nweze 
Co-Director, Bookkeeper and Accountant 

Cavanaugh is a financial professional, farmer, published writer, and a nationally recognized community Leader. He is a Native Texan with Nigerian roots. Since completing his Master’s degree in accounting, expanding gardens to numerous homes and Community Centers, and focusing on culturally-centered programs, Cavanaugh has earned his reputation as being an optimistic, conscious, and motivated Teacher.
As an addition to his work as an activist, Cavanaugh is the founder and Managing Partner at Nweze Financial Solutions LLC. By providing accounting and professional financial services, Cavanaugh has been able to marry his accounting and activist expertise by providing immediate economic assistance to numerous individuals and organizations lacking access to ethical financial expertise.

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David Espinoza (He/They, born 1991) 
Co-Director of Community Organizing 

David is a lifelong resident of Northeast Houston and has been a volunteer since 2021 and joined as a staff member in March 2024 coordinating community organizing efforts. He graduated from the University of Houston with a bachelors in Architecture in 2022.

Noreste de Houston

Desde Harvey, el trabajo de West Street Recovery (WSR) se ha concentrado en cuatro códigos postales en el noreste de Houston: 77016, 77026, 77028 y 77078. Esta es un área de alta pobreza con ingresos medios y valores de vivienda muy bajos. La mayoría de los miembros de la comunidad con los que trabajamos son negros o hispanos; hay muy pocos residentes blancos.

Una combinación de geografía física y siglos de prácticas de desarrollo irresponsables pone al noreste de Houston, como a muchas otras partes de la ciudad, en un riesgo extremo de inundaciones. Las últimas dos décadas han visto eventos de lluvia cada vez más frecuentes y severos, lo que ha convertido a Allison (2001), Ike (2008), Tax Day (2015), Memorial Day (2016), Harvey (2017) e Imelda (2019) en nombres familiares. . 20 años de inundaciones persistentes han reformado profundamente las relaciones de las personas y las comunidades con sus hogares. El peligro de inundaciones se ve agravado por la concentración de instalaciones peligrosas y sitios de emisión en esta área, fuentes de toxinas que luego se propagan indiscriminadamente por las inundaciones. 

El noreste de Houston se divide entre la línea divisoria de aguas Halls Greens Bayou en el norte y Hunting Bayou en el sur. Durante Harvey, la cuenca de Hunting Bayou tuvo la mayor proporción de unidades de vivienda inundadas, y Halls Green Bayou tuvo la mayor cantidad de unidades inundadas de cualquier Bayou en el condado de Harris. A pesar de la clara y urgente necesidad de ayuda, se negó a una proporción sorprendentemente alta de residentes que solicitaron ayuda de FEMA o de grandes organizaciones sin fines de lucro.

El resultado de las condiciones de referencia injustas y la respuesta inadecuada del gobierno y el aparato de recuperación de desastres después de Harvey es que, más de 3 años después, muchos hogares en el noreste de Houston aún no se han recuperado de Harvey. Algunos de esos hogares ya se han inundado varias veces desde entonces.

Nuestros valores y prácticas organizativas

"We must be the values that we say we’re struggling for and we must be justice, be peace, be community" - Jemez Principles for Democratic Organizing

Our organizing practices, including our relationships with community members and with each other, are greatly inspired by the Jemez Principles for Democratic Organizing. 

West Street Recovery uses community organizing and recovery services as mutually reinforcing activities to build a network of people who can take care of each other, teach and learn from each other, and collectively fıght for a better world. We prioritize building relationships and working together, and conceptualize the services we provide as an entry point for sustained social engagement and support. 

Disaster recovery is stressful, and prioritizing deep relationships over narrow efficiency makes our work more sustainable through inevitable future disasters. It is our goal to continue building the WSR community that can both pressure the state and large private organizations to enact policies that promote justice and equity, and take care of each other in the present world that continues to disadvantaged neighborhoods like those in Northeast Houston.

Horizontal organization – While we work on discrete projects and focus on our strengths, all day team staff share responsibility and power to lead essential activities of the organization, including leading construction projects, talking to media, community organizing, political advocacy, fundraising, and administration. 

Consensus decision making and rotating facilitation are systems that open space for everyone in WSR to influence each other and ultimately shape the decisions we make. Sharing power in such a diverse group requires processes that alter standard patterns of conversations and advance our mutual understanding. These procedures act as an impediment to replicating the same hierarchies (based in wealth, race, age, education level, gender, or disability) that we see in the world around us.