Six months after Harvey: Survivors still facing struggles, difficult reality

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Six months after the storm, David Prevost still works to repair the damage that Harvey’s floodwaters caused at his Port Arthur home. Courtesy: 12 News Now

An 87-year old woman still living in her musty, flooded-out home that hasn’t been repaired at all.
Middle school students finally moving from half-day to full-day school hours at a different campus.
An entire county with no mental health providers to help victims still struggling to deal with life after the storm.

Six months after Hurricane Harvey, those stories are just part of the difficult reality facing neighborhoods and even entire cities in Hardin and Orange counties near Beaumont.

“We just found out today that the 87-year old woman was handwriting her appeals to get FEMA help,” said Michelle Brewer, disaster recovery director for Hardin County.  “She’s living in a home that hasn’t even been mucked out. And she’s just one example of so many who are facing similar situations.”

This week, EHF met with Brewer and Michelle Tubberville, who oversees Harvey recovery efforts in Orange County. Both are working with Tri-County Disaster Rebuild SETX, a long-term recovery effort helping connect vulnerable disaster survivors with desperately needed assistance in Hardin, Orange and Jefferson counties.

Dr.-Shao-Chee-Sim-thumb.gifInside a small conference room at the Orange County Emergency Management office, Shao-Chee Sim, EHF’s VP for applied research, presented detailed Hurricane Harvey research to the group. It’s just one part of our ongoing effort to provide reliable information about residents’ needs and priorities for recovery after the storm. 

EHF’s research includes damage maps of neighborhoods most vulnerable to a slow recovery, interactive maps displaying FEMA assistance approval rates by zip code, and results of a comprehensive EHF/Kaiser Family Foundation survey of residents in Hardin, Orange and 22 other counties hit hardest by the storm.

Recovery funds, government agencies, philanthropic efforts, and other groups across Texas are currently using EHF’s Harvey recovery research to help guide them as they work to reach those most in need with the help they need the most.

“EHF’s research has been critical to assess where we are going to target our funds,” said Sally Ray, director of the $14 million Hurricane Harvey Recovery Fund for the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. “Relief is one thing. Recovery is something much different. We have limited funds, so we have to be strategic in what we do.”

EHF’s data has been instrumental is demonstrating that recovery needs are great not only in hard-hit, largely-populated areas like Houston and Harris County, but also in smaller areas along the Texas Gulf Coast — including the Golden Triangle of Jefferson, Hardin and Orange counties.

“There are no other resources like EHF’s research and maps,” said Chris Hensman, a program officer for the $100 million Rebuild Texas Fund that was created by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. “We’ve integrated the data into our work and it was clear to us that we needed to focus attention outside of Houston where the needs are great and there are fewer recovery resources available.”

EHF will continue presenting the Harvey research to long-term recovery groups in affected communities across the state. We recently released an in-depth analysis of survey data about the Golden Triangle area and plan another research report about how Harvey affected immigrants living in the counties hardest hit by the storm. EHF also plans to release another comprehensive survey with the Kaiser Family Foundation looking at residents’ views one year after Harvey.

Meanwhile, as struggles of survival continue in Hardin and Orange counties, Brewer and Tubberville believe hope and renewal will eventually replace adversity and frustration.  They say EHF’s Harvey data can be a key part of making tough decisions as they move from a difficult reality into a resilient recovery.

EHF’s Hurricane Harvey Recovery resources:

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