WHO WE ARe
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Doris Brown (She /Her, born 1949)
Doris is West Street Recovery’s Co-Director of Community Research, Organizing, and Special Events. She is also a co-founder of the NORTHEAST ACTION COLLECTIVE (NAC). 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. She joined staff at West Street in June of 2020.
Ben Hirsch (Her/Him, born 1989)
Ben is West Street recovery’s Co-Director of Organizing, Research and Development. He has worked with WSR since its founding and has helped to launch the Harvey home repair program, found the Harvey Forgotten Survivors Caucus, and initiated community research efforts. 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.
Felix Kapoor (He/Him, born 1987)
Felix is West Street Recovery’s Co-Director of Operations & Rebuild Efforts, and Community 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, launching our Language Justice interpretation training, and 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)
Alice is West Street Recovery’s Co-Director of Communications, Organizing and Disaster Preparedness. She interned for West Street in the summer of 2020, and returned as staff in January of 2021. Alice leads WSR’s communications program, including social media, email, website, and media. Since Winter Storm Uri Alice has also helped coordinate plumbing and home repairs for impacted families. Alice has organized for climate and environmental justice in Houston for over 5 years, starting when she was a student at Rice University.
Andrew Barley (He/Him, born 1989)
Andrew is the Co-Director of Rebuild Efforts and Disaster Preparation Services. He 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 Disaster Prep program. He is currently a student at the University of St. Thomas where he is joint majoring in international studies and political science.
Becky Selle (She/They, born 1992)
Becky is West Street Recovery’s Co-Director of Organizing, Research & and Rebuild. She joined West Street two weeks after Harvey through mucking homes and since has helped cocreate the home repair program, initiate community research efforts, develop the Northeast Action Collective and cofound the Harvey Forgotten Survivors Caucus. She has grown the West Street Community through organizing alongside other Houston groups, developing our volunteer program and base, inviting Harvey survivors into our organizing, advocacy, and rebuild work, and developing our practice of popular education and horizontality. Her background is in medical engineering, public health, and outdoor education.
Cavanaugh Nweze (He/Him)
Cav is West Street Recovery’s accountant and bookkeeper, as well as a financial professional, farmer, published writer, and a nationally recognized community Leader. In 2006, while working on his Bachelors of Accounting Degree at Prairie View A&M University, Cavanaugh founded Divine Leaders, Inc., an educational and community service non-profit organization.
Through Divine Leaders, Inc., he has established the Marcus Garvey Liberation Garden, The Bi-Annual Greater Houston Urban Garden Festival, an edible landscaping program dubbed ‘Grub Not Grass’, and the Living Grocery Store; A traveling produce stand. These programs reflect his passion for agriculture, sustainable living, and destroying food deserts in his City. As the Divine Leaders Inc. founder, Cavanaugh has begun to share his expertise in the garden by hosting Raised Bed Garden classes where people participate in a hands-on course where installing garden spaces into homes. He has also participated in several documentary shorts in hopes to bring the idea of growing food back into the heart of his Community.
Cavanaugh is a Native Texan with Nigerian roots. As an addition to his work as a activist, Cavanaugh is the founder and Managing Partner at Nweze Financial Solutions LLC. By providing accounting and profession financial services, Cavanaugh has been able to marry his accounting and activist expertise by providing immediate economic assistance to numerous individuals lacking access to ethical financial expertise.
Tracy Hamblin (She/her)
Tracy is co-director of Rebuild program. She has worked with West Street since it’s 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)
Brenda is West Street Recovery’s Co-Director of Organizing, Research, and Disaster Prep. She 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.
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.