West Street Recovery (WSR) is a horizontally organized grassroots non-profit organization which aims to use efforts toward recovery after Hurricane Harvey to build community power. We believe that the people who were most harmed by Harvey are the ones who best understand what can protect them in the future. We are committed to create these connections and help residents improve their neighborhoods in ways they see fit.
Our second year has been a thrilling time of growth for West Street Recovery. What began out as a few friends helping neighbors after Harvey has evolved into a team of community members working with residents of Northeast Houston to rebuild their lives and homes. In just two years we have created an efficient nonprofit organization providing case management to over 250 families, providing small build repairs, and more recently completing full home rebuilds for families that cannot qualify for other rebuilding programs. We are also excited to be engaged in a long term community organizing project in the 77078 area, and to have recently completed our first edition of our flood resilient home design.
Summer Update: Employing Hurricane Survivors to Rebuild Homes and Strengthen Bonds
We hope you are savoring the last bits of summer and, if you are here in Houston that you survived the heat. As always WSR has been hard at work rebuilding homes, helping families navigate the recovery process and advocating for, and organizing towards, a more just Houston and world. We are currently planning our second anniversary celebration October 12, at Finca Tres Robles Farm in Houston. You can buy tickets here. The event is an important way for us to foster community and raise funds for the work that is still so badly needed in Northeast Houston.
In the early part of the summer we were lucky enough to gain access to pallets of free 25 year shingles through Bayou City Fellowship and were able to replace the roofs of more than a dozen homes that leaked badly during Harvey. Because Harvey was considered a “flooding event” and not a “wind event,” many repair organizations do not repair roofs, even though a leaking roof means any other repairs that are completed are at risk. These roof repairs and using free materials are a great example of how we continue to use creative strategies to help families get past roadblocks to a full recovery.
In addition we have now completely restored six homes. Deloris, a long time resident whose home we are restoring expressed the feeling of having us work on her home by saying, “I am glad for the renovations. They are a big help. I was really concerned. I didn’t know if I was going to have to leave permanently. But now it looks like I will get back in my home. I am pleased. I enjoyed the workers they were very nice and very good.” The continued use of community members as paid workers in their own neighborhoods has been critical to this success.
In addition to our reconstruction, work we have continued to organize through the Northeast Action Committee. In early August, for the first time, residents co facilitated the meeting, which was a huge accomplishment. Leading a meeting can be awkward, terrifying or confusing, but NAC members excelled. This is a critical step because while we love the meetings, we understand that to be truly autonomous – and therefor fully empowered – the NAC needs to be member led.
Thanks so much for the continued support, and please consider buying a ticket to attend our fundraiser October 12th. If you cannot attend but would like to buy a ticket for a resident in your honer, or are having some other logistical issue please email us to let us know!
West Street Recovery
Spring Update: Rebuilding Homes & Community Organizing
The spring has been an incredibly productive and busy time for West Street Recovery. In April, we finished two full home repair projects funded by SBP and by the end of May we will have completed one more home and broken ground on three others funded by the Rebuild Texas Fund. This increased scale and pace of work has been made possible by the new and exciting rebuilding partnerships we have developed with Chapelwood fellowship and the Houston Galveston Episcopal Archdiocese, who have partnered with us on one job site each, and who we hope to keep working with throughout the summer. (Pictured Below: Volunteers from Boston, coordinated by Chapelwood, Andrew Cobb and Waylon)
At the first RTF home we tried out a “muck ready” construction technique on the walls (see below). These walls have a seperation between the two sheets of dry wall and segments the insulation into two halves so that half of the materials can be protected in the case of a flood under 4 feet. It is disheartening to have to consider this kind of strategy, but until buyouts are a real possibility or flood mitigation money is spent in low income areas it is a necessity.
In addition to our construction efforts, we have continued meeting with residents we have helped through case management and home repair to organize ways to improve quality of life in their neighborhood. This amazing group (pictured below) have chosen the name Northeast Action Collective and hosted their first ever event, A Drainage Action Day, May 18. To get to this point, the residents have built skills and relationships, visited each others homes, cooked each other dinner and entertained each other, by teasing WSR staff members in Spanglish. The event was a huge success, with over 50 attendees cleaning out drains over two dozen blocks. While we are proud of our work, we hope that the city will take notice and spend the time and money that can reduce flooding risk in the future. (Pictures of the event are below)
Both strains of our work, community organizing, and rebuilding homes are made possible by our deep relationships with northeast Houston residents. We are proud to have hired 11 residents to work on our job sites in April and May alone because we believe that it keeps money in the communities that were most impacted by the Hurricane and build community resilience. We are also relieved to be rebuilding the homes of the Doucett and Moses Families, both of whom we have known since the storm. In both cases, our creative and persistent approach has proven successful at overcoming the many obstacles the families faced to accessing help through major agencies and governments. These families had to have deeds cleared, had unpaid taxes, homes with damage that predated Harvey and health and transportation issues that made the process strenuous. However, as we forged tighter bonds with each household it became increasingly clear that they needed and deserved safe, sanitary and secure housing, and that West Street was the most likely avenue for them to receive help.
We are so grateful for the support that has made our work possible, and we would like to remind you that we are still receiving a match for every dollar we raise through the generosity of the Rebuild Texas Fund. In addition, if you are a lawyer, or have a friend that is, and would be willing to help some families clear deeds so that they can be eligible for assistance through HUD please contact us.
Thanks for everything and keep in touch.
All of us at West Street Recovery