West Street Recovery

Northeast Action Collective

WSR organizes alongside disaster survivors for structural changes so that communities can shape and win their own solutions to historical and ongoing injustices. The perspective and priorities of flood survivors that we work with is at the core of all of WSR’s programs, from home repair to disaster preparedness. Our community organizing and advocacy efforts are undertaken in addition to this baseline. 

Community groups driven by residents and flood survivors themselves have emerged within the broader West Street community. The Northeast Action Collective (NAC), formed in 2018, is organizing on issues of inadequate drainage in northeast Houston. Currently the vast majority of WSR’s just recovery advocacy is undertaken through or alongside the NAC. With NAC members we have initiated campaigns to push government agencies to respond adequately to disaster, environmental, and climate issues our neighborhoods face. In 2018 we pushed for the Harris County Flood Bond to equitably distribute $2.5 Billion of drainage infrastructure funding and won a historic inclusion of “equity” language in the bond itself. Currently we are demanding real investment from the City on street drainage and maintenance. 

Campaign for City Drainage

The City of Houston continues to neglect the health and well being of People in NE Houston by not investing in our drainage system, by providing no way for us to meaningfully participate in drainage investment decisions and by continuing to ignore the risks that this neglect causes. This lack of investment and democratic process is part of a long pattern of Houston failing to provide equal services to Black and Brown communities.

Northeast Houston has a majority open ditch drainage system. The same district has over 50% of subsidized housing for families, the largest creosote deposit in Texas, a concentration of truck and train yards and the city’s biggest landfill.  It is also home to many of the city’s sewage leaks. While closed drainage is maintained by the city, we are required to maintain open ditches ourselves — that is not equal treatment. The lack of upkeep, frequent rains and prevalence of environmental hazards in our communities mean that poor drainage is a serious threat to our health. 

For the past two years the NAC tried to participate in the budget process, and other processes to improve flood protection in our communities. In each case we have been told we were too late, we didn’t follow the right process or went to the wrong meeting. But when we did go to meetings related to drainage spending, we heard that our voices were inappropriate, or that drainage decisions were made elsewhere. We keep hearing this message because it is true: there is no way for marginalized residents to improve conditions in their neighborhoods through official channels.

We demand equal protection from flooding as part of our right to fair housing, equal opportunity and equal protection by the government. the city of Houston must show that they are committed to resolving this injustice and: 
  1. Increase investment in Drainage in BIPOC communities
    • Use the Flood benefit index to measure current level of protection and investment
    • Move spending to get every neighborhood to the same level of flood protection
    • Tenfold increase SWAT and LDP funds in LMI areas; 
  2. Maintain and repair ditches and other drainage infrastructure on a regular schedule
  3. Make 311 more effective and transparent
  4. Make drainage infrastructure governance more transparent, accessible and democratic  
    • Create a comprehensive drainage plan with regular status updates
    • Create Pathway for community input to influence project design and selection
    • Track and publicize drainage spending by using Checkbook program
    • Create a point person for Drainage in Northeast Houston