More than three months after Hurricane Harvey, many local victims say they’re still struggling to find a safe, affordable place to live.
On Tuesday, around 30 people, including Harvey victims and activists from the Texas Organizing Project, stood on the steps of Houston City Hall urging Mayor Sylvester Turner and City Council Members to go after more money to house those who lost everything in the storm.
Many were from low-income families who said they had been stuck in moldy apartments, suffering from breathing problems and dealing with uncooperative or sometimes hostile management.
Now after losing everything and denials by FEMA and Red Cross, some feel city leaders are their last hope.
“Seven feet of water, it destroyed everything I owned,” said Dorothy Jones, a pregnant single mother of two.
Jones said in the weeks it took her and her kids to move out, doctors found mold had grown on their lungs.
“We knew the mold was dangerous, but we had nowhere to go,” said Jones. “We thought the landlord would do the right thing and report, repair the property, but he didn’t.”
Jones and others at Tuesday’s rally want Mayor Turner and City Council to OK an ordinance with the state’s General Land Office that could mean up to $424 million flowing to the city to directly fund housing for Harvey victims.
Activists say they also want city leaders to push for additional money for Section 8 housing vouchers, which help low-income families pay rent.
“The resources of the city, the resources of the nonprofits organizations, the resources of organizations like this one are stretched beyond anything the city has ever seen before,” said Neil Golightly, Chief of Staff for Marvin Odum, who Mayor Turner appointed as the city’s Chief Recovery Officer after Harvey.
Those outside later packed the City Hall chambers during Tuesday’s weekly public speakers section, where Mayor Turner told the crowd he expects Council will approve the GLO money on Wednesday during their weekly council meeting.
“Hopefully those dollars will flow quickly then to the City of Houston, and then repairs can start hopefully in the month of January,” said Mayor Turner, who says the $424 million will be the first allotment from GLO. “The second trunch, that $5 billion that has come from HUD down to the state, we don’t know what amount of that will be coming to the City of Houston.”
However, at least one council member believes there’s already money available to help.
“I’m concerned that we’re not actually doing what we’re supposed to be doing to help the people of this city,” said Council Member Michael Kubosh, At-Large Position 3, before the meeting.
Kubosh points to the two waves of distributions from the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, with $7.5 million going to 28 nonprofits on October 3 and $28.9 million going to 90 nonprofits on November 15.
He says he wants to see the remaining money go directly to victims instead of requiring nonprofits serving as a go-between.
“If we would have given out $105 million within two to three weeks, (the recipients) would have spent it all,” said Kubosh. “It would have been an economic boom to this city, but right now $75 million of it is sitting over there in a bank.”