Ernest and Hester Collins had already faced difficulties on their part before last month’s deadly winter storm. Millions of people had closed their homes in most areas of Texas and electrified millions of homes, including their modest rent in Fifth Ward, Houston’s historic Black neighborhood.
The brothers and sisters were getting on a fixed income without a car when the storm left them and many neighbors without lights or summer days. His pipes burst due to the storm, causing water to run for three weeks in the country’s fourth largest city, as many could not make repairs. Their formidable circumstances made them unable to bathe and forced them to use the bucket as a toilet.
The storm, which experts say could be the cause of billions of dollars of damage, is the latest disaster to have adversely affected Houston’s color and the communities of its poorest residents in recent years. These include major floods in 2015 and 2016, devastation from Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and, to a lesser extent, tropical storm Imelda two years later, a series of plant and refinery fires and eruptions, and of course the coronavirus epidemic.
Not surprisingly, many people in these communities feel frustrated at what they feel is the lack of assistance each time a disaster strikes.
“For some reason, we are not getting (help). “They put us back on the burner,” said 56-year-old Ernest Collins.
“Because we are poor,” added a female neighbor.
Local officials, including Mayor Sylvester Turner, say they have recently focused on helping to outline recovery efforts, but their work is not yet complete. Community advocates worry that residents will continue to have trouble receiving aid and that it will have to deal with the crises plaguing their communities, including income inequality and lack of health care.
Last month’s storm blackouted most of Texas and left more than 1.4 million Houston-area customers without power. The outage also forced millions in Texas and elsewhere, including Mississippi, as their plants lost power. Approximately 25% of water customers throughout Houston experienced any leakage from tattered pipes. Of the 25 people killed by the storm in the Houston area, 17 were Black or Latino.
Robert Bullard, a professor of urban planning and environmental policy at Texas Southern University, said areas with predominantly Black and Latino populations, such as the Fifth Ward, have faced challenges from the beginning due to residential segregation and racially discriminatory practices that have Held persons hostage. And loan.
“It’s life in those neighborhoods … conflict, it’s hard to live on a modest income,” Bullard said.
Hoster Collins, 67, while standing outside his home, said the helplessness of his situation fueled his depression. The only momentary solace was listening to the R&B music coming from her neighbor’s house.
“So, I just have to deal with the blessings God has given me,” he said.
A block away, a group of friends, who informally formed a relief effort, stood outside the U-Haul truck, delivering water and other supplies.
Jacksonline Westman said, “It’s just us as caretakers of each other, who previously lived in Houston, but now live in Austin and whose group in the Fifth Ward to pay for several supply giveaways Raised thousands of dollars. “
About 6 miles (10 kilometers) northeast in another historically black neighborhood, Trinity-Houston Gardens, water ran into Maryna Johnson’s home when she walked about two weeks without it.
West Street Recovery, a nonprofit company created after Hurricane Harvey to help fix flood-damaged homes, was working with plumbers to repair broken pipes for residents such as Johnson, who did so Can not afford to
The 71-year-old, Johnson, whose home was damaged during Harvey, said he is grateful for West Street’s help because “the government does nothing.” The group was also fixing the pipeline to the homes around Johnson’s two sisters and her niece.
Trinity-Houston Gardens and similar neighborhoods have also suffered from pollution and flood mitigation from industrial facilities and refineries. In 2019, state officials announced that a cancer cluster had been identified in the Fifth Ward and a predominantly black and latino neighborhood, Kashmiri Gardens, and that it could be tied to a rail yard.
Becky Sellal, co-founder of West Street, said, “We must invest in highly systematic changes … protecting people from disaster as it comes and retreats. Health benefits.”
Some residents who were still waiting for their homes to be fixed after Harvey are now battling additional damage from last month’s storm, Keith Downey, president of the Kashmiri Garden Super Neighborhood, a community group that prioritizes with the city Works to determine and local address. Is required.
A city and county relief fund that has raised more than $ 11 million will offer repair help. But residents were also encouraged to apply for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA aid is limited, however, as the agency awarded only $ 56 million in hurricane disaster assistance across the state of Texas as of Friday.
An analysis by Texas Houses, a nonprofit that works on housing issues, found that people who applied for FEMA assistance after Harvey, Black, and Latino applicants compared them to white applicants Higher rates were denied in. The analysis also found that the poorer an applicant was, the more likely he or she would be denied FEMA aid, said Zoe Middleton, a Texas Texas co-director of southeast housing.
A spokesperson for FEMA, Alberto Pilot, said the agency wanted “everyone who was affected by the winter storm to recover as soon as possible.”
And the mayor of Houston said the city was doing everything to help residents and “stabilize the situation.”
But not surprisingly after repeated disappointment of previous recovery efforts, some of Houston’s Black and Latino residents are skeptical.
“In recent memory, there is nothing that suggests (residents) that the system will work for them,” said Huey Jarman-Wilson, president of Trinity-Houston Gardens Super Neighborhood.
Jarman-Wilson said that despite being exhausted and at times frustrated with her neighbors’ efforts to seek help, she would move forward.
“We continue to work with our communities and say, ‘No we are not going to be overwhelmed and we are not going to give it up.”