Houston Residents Find Hope in the Aftermath of Hurricane Harvey
Though the media has moved on from Hurricane Harvey, the memory of August 25th is still fresh in the minds of Houston’s residents. In 24 hours, the storm covered the city with two feet of water, caused 14 fatalities, and destroyed the homes of thousands of residents..
Our team worked 24/7 to help over 10,000 Texas residents evacuate by charter bus in time for the storm’s arrival. Today, life goes on, and the city is slowing rebuilding and repairing. While transporting evacuees back to Houston weeks later, we quickly noticed that no one, even a hurricane, can mess with Texas.
For our second podcast episode, we spoke to two Houstonians, Jennifer Underwood and Rabbi Chaim Lazaroff, who showed us what sets this city apart.
Listen to the full podcast episode below:
Jennifer Underwood, staff writer at Houston Moms Blog, lives in an apartment with her husband and three kids. Their home was heavily damaged from flooding after Hurricane Harvey, and the family of five is still adjusting after the unexpected move.
As a licensed attorney, Jennifer is better-equipped than most to navigate the city’s regulations on construction. For example, the city requires a permit to rebuild homes that are located in a floodplain and are more than 50% damaged. These homes must be elevated or completely torn down.
The Underwoods were fortunate to have flood insurance before Harvey. Jennifer told us that many people don’t realize that the maximum amount they’ll receive to rebuild their home is only $250,000. For those with extensive damage, this amount isn’t enough to cover a rebuild, and they’re forced to abandon their homes.
Not everyone lost their homes in the hurricane, and some people are living with survivor’s guilt. Jennifer said one of her close friends struggled with questions like, “Why was my home spared when so many people lost everything?”
To Jennifer, the answer was obvious. “God needed somebody left to help the rest of us,” said Underwood. The friend and her husband had helped the Underwoods get their lives back in order after the flood.
The family’s top priority after the hurricane was to get the kids back in school and return to a normal routine. Though the school had suffered damages, Jennifer was impressed by how quickly they were able to start classes again.
If you would like to help the school continue its operations during the repair process, please donate to Saint Thomas’ Episcopal School.
Rabbi Chaim Lazaroff
Rabbi Chaim Lazaroff is the program director for Chabad Lubavitch of Texas, an organization that serves as a beacon of light for the Jewish community in Texas. They seek to spread Ahavat Yisrael, which is akin to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Rabbi Chaim and his team embodied Ahavat Yisrael as first responders of Hurricane Harvey. They received calls from everyone, not just those in the Jewish community, and they used all of their resources to help. The team worked to bring evacuees from their homes and from shelters to more suitable, family-friendly places of refuge. They also collected donations through their website, which totaled $200,000 as of November 1, 2017.
Still, Rabbi Chaim says, “I thank God every day we were able to be on the giving end of kindness during Hurricane Harvey.” He was happy to witness the human spirit and resilience people showed to those affected by the storm.
Though the U.S. is a prosperous country, there’s a limit to how much the government can do in natural disasters. Past events like Hurricane Katrina tested the capacity of agencies like FEMA. But Rabbi Chaim said that he noticed an improvement in their responsiveness and ability to get information out more efficiently with Hurricane Harvey. He’s had visitors come to Houston and remark that they don’t see signs of devastation.
Born and raised in Texas, Rabbi Chaim is proud of the #HoustonStrong movement that emerged from August’s disaster. As a member of the Jewish faith, he says he doesn’t let the tough times get him down. The community fosters a sense of survival mentality and encourages its members to look forward to make the world a better place.
The hurricane’s goal was to test Houston’s residents, but Rabbi Chaim says, “It picked the wrong city to mess with. We’ll survive with flying colors.”
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