The network of area churches and businesses helping coordinate local recovery efforts, was founded by the nonprofit Cy-Hope and has since expanded its reach to communities such as Spring, Klein and Tomball.
Executive Director Steve Saunders said last week in a Cy-Fair Houston Chamber of Commerce committee meeting that families whose home damage was not covered by insurance have been surprised when the grants available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency have not been sufficient to completely renovate their homes.
“Those FEMA grants are only to make their house habitable, and that’s all they’re ever supposed to be,” Saunders said. “It’s not to rebuild their homes. So there’s a lot of misconception about what those grants are for and how much they are.”
These funds can only be used to repair storm damage; they cannot officially be used for temporary living situations, repairing existing problems in the home or repairing vehicles that were damaged, he said.
Saunders said it costs about $15,000 for the recovery network to get a home back to a safe, sanitary and secure condition. This includes repairing outside walls, heating/air conditioning, electrical and plumbing and providing a temporary kitchen as well as one functioning bathroom.
While the network’s 20 churches have mucked out an average of 100 homes each, there is still a growing list of more than 1,000 individuals and families in need of assistance, Saunders said. Members of these local congregations have volunteered to help out, but the churches have also hosted thousands of volunteers from outside the Cy-Fair area.
One of the members of Hope Disaster Recovery is Cypress United Methodist Church. Amy Furbee, director of connections and communication with Cypress UMC, said in the days following the storm, a team of Mennonites walked in and asked if they could be of help. Since then, teams of 20-60 workers have made weekly treks from Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, New York and Missouri to work in local neighborhoods.
The volunteers ask for no pay in return, she said. Teams are housed at Cypress UMC, and church members provide three meals a day as well as supplies for home repair and rebuilding. Recovery work has included mucking out homes, replacing sheetrock, floor removal and cabinetry.
“We have worked in [neighborhoods] around the church—Ravensway, Lakewood,” Furbee said. “We’ve also gone to Memorial, Spring and Bear Creek. Here it’s every couple houses, but there it’s just like a war zone.”
Since Harvey, teams have done recovery work in more than 170 homes alongside volunteers from Cypress UMC and churches from Alabama, Arkansas and Louisiana. Furbee said the church is booked with volunteers through May and will take a break over the summer before picking up again in September.
Cypress UMC spends an average of $3,000 per home to rebuild them to livable conditions, Furbee said. Supplies and monetary donations from the community are being accepted at this time. Restaurants or other groups who would like to contribute can also donate meals for volunteers.
“We are in it for the long haul,” Furbee said. “We’re already planning for next year, but we’re going to be in it until it’s done.”
If you or someone you know needs assistance or would like to volunteer with Hope Disaster Recovery, visit www.hopedisasterrecovery.org or call 832-356-4098.