The Snowball Effect After Hurricane Harvey


Relief Assistance Statistics for Northwest Assistance Ministries
Phase I Relief Stats – 7413+ individuals rec’d food, clothing, cleaning and hygiene items, baby items
Phase II Recovery Stats -2073 individuals rec’d rent/mortgage assistance, furniture, help with car repairs, utilities, etc.
The Snowball Effect after Harvey
While the sun is shining and cooler weather befalls many this first week in October, a cloud looms    over many survivors as they try to put their lives back together, one piece at a time.

This week I spoke with Mr. & Mrs. M who moved to Houston three years ago from Oklahoma when their son won a full scholarship to the University of Houston. Mrs. M. works for Hobby Lobby and Mr. M was about to begin a new job on August 29th with a mortgage lending firm. They are both in their late 50’s and other than their son, they have no relatives living in the Houston area.
 
While their second - floor apartment did not flood, they lost both their vehicles when flood waters rose to their car roof tops in Spring, TX where they reside. One vehicle was older and only had liability insurance, making it a total loss. The second vehicle was less than a year old and while it had full coverage, the insurance company informed Mr. M that since they had not purchased GAP insurance, they were upside down on the vehicle.

Mrs. M is positive they purchased gap insurance but is unable to locate a copy of the sales contract. One month later, she is still waiting for the dealership to send her a copy. In the interim, the insurance company settled the loan based on the current value of the vehicle which left them still owing $1800 in car payments on the loan for a car they cannot afford to fix and cannot sell until they pay off the loan. 

On August 28th, they reached out to FEMA for help with their vehicles. Since the vehicles flooded while parked at home, they were told to apply for residential assistance. After waiting a week, they were denied. Then they were told by FEMA to apply for an SBA loan to pay for the difference owed on the vehicle. After the list of documents needed to process the request for help kept growing and changing, three weeks after Harvey they were again denied assistance. They were told to apply for commercial assistance through FEMA. They are still waiting.

To compound their situation, Mr. M’s new employer notified him on August 29th that a hiring freeze had been initiated due to the disaster. Since he had not completed the new hire paperwork, Mr. M now finds himself unemployed during a period of uncertainty for many local businesses. Mr. M is a diabetic and was counting on the insurance benefits that were promised with the new job.
When the $160.00 electric bill came due, they had no money to pay it as Mrs. M lost almost a full week of work after Harvey. She applied for disaster unemployment assistance. Since Hobby Lobby reopened, she has relied on Uber to get back and forth to work each day. There is no public transportation in Spring, Texas.

They contacted Harris County Social Services for help with the light bill. The appointment was at the NAM satellite location where NAM provides free space to the county agency. After assisting them with the utility bill, the HCSS caseworker referred their case to NAM’s Relief case manager for help with September’s rent as they were already past due and facing eviction.   NAM assisted with a full rent payment of $1050 for September. The couple also received information on Disaster Relief Food Stamps for two months which they have already applied for and received.

Mr. & Mrs. M. are truly grateful for the help received for rent, utilities and food at NAM but they worry because October is now due and they still have no car. Mr. M. is still without work and October’s bills are coming due. They were reassured when they heard they could return to NAM if FEMA denied help with the $1800.

With the help of volunteers from PV Fluids and private individuals that stepped in to help with clerical, many families that were waiting for appointments, are now scheduled and with a grant from the Hamill Foundation, NAM will have two additional case managers beginning today to assist the hundreds of families like Mr. & Mrs. M who remain just a week away from becoming homeless.

While NAM has now raised funding to last at least six months to assist survivors, due to the overwhelming number of pending applications for Flood Relief, the number of daily applications NAM can accept has been reduced from 50/day to 25/day until the back log of cases can be processed.

If your congregation or company can send one volunteer, one day this month to NAM’s assistance department, Meals on Wheels, Food Pantry or Resale store to help us speed up the process to help neighbors in need , click on this link: www.namonline.org and click on I want to volunteer.
If you do not have time but still wish to help, your tax-deductible contribution will truly make a difference to a neighbor in need.
Donations may be mailed to:

Northwest Assistance Ministries
15555 Kuykendahl Road   RM 255
Houston, TX 77090

Together we are building opportunities for families to recover, one day at a time,
Carole

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