January and February have been exciting and rewarding months at West Street. We finished our first complete rebuild, set goals for the upcoming year, and were awarded operational funding from the Rebuild Texas Fund. While we are buoyed by our organizational growth and progress, the challenges of the long term recovery continue to reveal themselves to both us as an organization and the families we work with.
Since the start of the year a huge gap in home repair assistance has emerged. The city and county (funded through HUD) have launched massive programs, but residents will have to wait at least six months before the first hammers swing. At the same time, one of the the largest charities working in home repair, Baker Ripley, has announced that they are no longer accepting applications for repairs, and, work administered through Harvey Home Connect, the centralized system for accessing charitable aid, is winding down. Taking this in mind, and after studying the city’s eligibility requirements, we worry and predict that many WSR clients simply will not qualify for the assistance that will allow their families to maintain home ownership.
Despite this overall picture, we have kept pushing forward and see the results of our effort every day. In early January, WSR finished our first complete rebuild at the home of Ann Weston, who, along with her two adult children, was incredible to work with. Three generations of her family worked on the home over the holiday period, and – with the help of some amazing local contractors – we were able to install flood proof cabinets, a new roof, new electrical system and replace flood damaged portions of her walls. Ann was included in an article about the drudgery of the recovery effort and the lasting effects of the PREPS program in the Houston Chronicle, which you can read here. Completing this project is a huge accomplishment for both WSR and the family, and we are excited to finish two more large scale projects in the very near future.
In addition, we are thrilled to announce that our reconstruction work will not stop with these three homes. Continuing is possible because we were granted operational support from the Rebuild Texas Fund, the Hurricane Harvey specific fund established by the Susan and Michael Dell foundation and the One Star foundation. We are excited to bring stability to our work, extend our planning horizon, and, most importantly, to be able to help families who we know are still struggling to recover from flooding. If we complete the grant program to its fullest possible extent we will fully repair 10 homes and complete small repairs on as many as 50 more. As an organization, we want to acknowledge that without your volunteer hours, donations, advice and encouragement we would not have reached this point.
One of the most exciting part of this grant package, is that RTF has agreed to match any donation we receive for a full calendar year. For the families we serve that means each dollar you give is worth twice as much. You can donate here or send us a check to: West Street Recovery, 2012 Emancipation Ave, Houston, TX 77003.
And, if you are looking to volunteer, the extended planning horizon and funding pool means that there will be tons of work to do for months to come. Please reach out to us to learn more.
We appreciate the time it takes to read an update like this, we hope you’ll stay in touch!
From All of us at West Street Recovery,