Flood Relief in Houston

Southern  |  June 9, 2016

Houston has a long flood history, but the severe flooding caused by record-breaking torrential rain that pummeled the city this April, the wettest in Houston on record, makes this the most significant flood event since Tropical Storm Allison in 2001.

The downpour dropped an estimated 240 billion gallons of water, rapidly inundating many flood prone areas. And as was the case in 2015, the city of Wharton in the Greater Houston area was gravely affected.

The assessment of the extent of the disaster began immediately, since Xiaowen Jie, a Tzu Chi volunteer with connections to a factory in Wharton, was able to obtain first-hand accounts of the situation.

His efforts helped guide the second disaster assessment on May 12th, which was quickly followed by an emergency aid distribution on May 14th.

Tzu Chi worked in collaboration with Just Do It Now, a faith-based non-profit organization based in Wharton, which assists low-income residents with a vision guided by their motto of “loving the community back to health”.

Apart from providing a detailed explanation of the impact of the disaster on local residents, Charlotte Jackson, the head of the non-profit shared the organization’s mission, which seeks to “spiritually, socially, and economically empower the community” and invites “the hearts, hands, and minds of the people in our community to come together and support our efforts”.

Given how their mission mirrors Tzu Chi’s focus on compassion, community service, and above all, love, everyone was grateful for the opportunity to work together and bring relief to those impacted by the flood.

With the help of 21 volunteers, Tzu Chi distributed $16,800, benefitting 61 families (167 recipients). And of course there were plenty of blankets and hugs to share, bringing welcome comfort and care.

Wharton was not the only community in the Greater Houston area that was severely impacted by the flooding in April.

In Greenspoint, a densely populated low-income community north of downtown Houston where most residents are renters, roughly one-third of the neighborhood’s 70 apartment complexes were affected by the deluge, forcing hundreds to seek temporary shelter.

On May 28th, volunteers from Tzu Chi’s Texas branch hosted their second emergency flood relief distribution, this time on site in a water damaged apartment building in Greenspoint.

Although the tenants and apartment managers who came were all very grateful for the comfort and support offered by Tzu Chi volunteers, the distribution was challenging.

While there were roughly 400 residents on the Red Cross list who had been informed by the apartment rental office of when the distribution would take place, because most had found temporary shelter elsewhere, only a few were able to come.

The 50 volunteers who participated in the distribution did not give up, but organized four follow-up surveys, working diligently to find those on the list to offer the aid they need.

Overall, 266 people (75 families) benefitted from the $26,400 in direct aid that was distributed.

On June 8th, Tzu Chi volunteers met the Mayor of Richmond, another city in the greater Houston area that was ravaged by flooding. They discussed the situation, then drove through the town and surrounding areas to assess the damage first hand.

Everywhere they went, they saw piles of unsalvageable furniture, broken appliances, and destroyed household items discarded along the side of the road, everything moldy and smelly due to exposure to direct sunlight.

Once all the ruined stuff was thrown out, in many cases there was nothing left inside the homes. They visited the house of one local resident who was even forced to replace all the floors and walls due to water damage. Thankfully, his friends and relatives had come to visit him and show their support.

Tzu Chi volunteers were glad to see that the Red Cross was in the area, distributing food to help flood victims.

In preparation for Tzu Chi’s relief distribution in the area, volunteers returned to Richmond on June 12th to gather detailed information and make a list of flood victims that require aid.

Despite the sweltering heat on that day, hundreds of flood survivors had formed a long line outside the distribution office. Tzu Chi volunteers kept them company as they waited, handing out water and offering comfort as they listened to their troubles.

By the end of the day, $96,500 in direct aid and 382 blankets were distributed to 223 families (851 people).

On June 18th, 35 volunteers hosted a relief distribution benefiting those affected by flooding in the city of Richmond and adjacent Rosenberg.

We pray that those affected by the recent flooding in the Greater Houston area will be free from further harm, knowing how much stress and suffering they endure as a result of recurring floods.

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