Thousands in Katy area remain homeless after Harvey floods

Ann Zanfardino, 92, stands in what was once her bedroom.

Ann Zanfardino, 92, stands in what was once her bedroom.

Image description
Thousands in Katy area remain homeless after Harvey floods
Image description
Thousands in Katy area remain homeless after Harvey floods
Image description
Thousands in Katy area remain homeless after Harvey floods
Image description
Thousands in Katy area remain homeless after Harvey floods
Editor’s note: This is the second article of a multipart series about the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey.

Local nonprofit Katy Responds estimates nearly 2,000 families in the Katy area are still homeless two years after Hurricane Harvey flooded and damaged thousands of homes and businesses.

The nonprofit organization defines homelessness not only as those who are displaced in hotels or living with relatives but also families who have remained living in poor conditions in homes needing repairs or rebuilding.

“As Harvey becomes more of a memory, the community is unaware there are still close to 2,000 Katy families not yet restored in their homes,” Katy Responds CEO Tom Pretti said. “This will be the third holiday season that some of these families have been displaced.”

Several organizations, including Katy Christian Ministries, Katy Responds, Hope Impacts and several churches in the Katy area, are working together to help everyone in the community recover.

Living on Bartlett Road, Ann Zanfardino, 92, and her youngest son, Mark, 59, have lived in a home damaged by Harvey for two years.

During Harvey, Mark Zanfardino said his mom sat in a chair inside the house with water up to her knees until she was evacuated, but he decided to stay and ride out the storm. Once the water receded, they continued to live in their home with debris, mold and cracks through the walls.

“I had no other place to go,” Ann Zanfardino said. “We lived here so long. My husband and I [were] married 50 years. He passed away in 2015, and he was about 90 years old. Some days I wonder why I wake up.”

Surveying the damage

According to Katy Responds, homelessness in the Katy area has risen by 1.5% since Harvey, and 13,800 Federal Emergency Management Agency claims were made. Of that number, 130 homes are still unlivable and 1,500 are still notably damaged.

Rice University released the Hurricane Harvey Registry Report in February. Residents were asked to share their Harvey experiences through the study, which captured the living environments of over 39,000 residents spanning over 13 counties in the Greater Houston area.

Out of the 9,798 registrants, about 46% reported having to leave their homes and were displaced for an average of 20 weeks before returning.

While displaced, 59% lived with a family, 14% lived in a hotel and 9% lived in an apartment, according to the survey.

“Every day, more than 100 local partners are working tirelessly to provide street outreach, housing, case management and employment services to people experiencing homelessness,” said Ana Rausch, senior research project manager for Coalition for the Homeless Houston.

Pretti said people affected by the storm as well as many churches and businesses that helped with recovery following Harvey became physically exhausted and emotionally fatigued. Funding is also exhausted in many cases.

Earlier this year, Ann Zanfardino walked into Katy City Hall looking for the mayor to ask why her home had not been repaired since someone who she assumed was with FEMA evaluated her home immediately after Harvey but did not return.

Katy Mayor Bill Hastings said one of the reasons many families are not back in their homes or living in damaged homes is because no one knows who they are.

“We have to know that they need help,” Bill Hastings said. “Like Mrs. Z[anfardino], I would have never known she needed help until she came down to my office.”

Rebuilding Katy

Brittany Eck, director of communications at the Texas General Land Office, said the office offers a homeowner assistance program and a homeowner reimbursement program to those affected by Harvey.

The HAP helps affected homeowners remodel or rebuild their homes, while HRP can help reimburse residents up to $50,000 for certain out-of-pocket expenses related to recovery following the storm, she said.

But many residents are in the same position as the Zanfardinos were in months ago: unaware of the resources available to them.

“This is a program that fully restores homes,” Eck said. “People don’t believe it. We are trying to ramp it up in these areas where we are seeing low turnouts for applications. We hope those who are receiving reimbursement encourage their neighbors to do the same.”

Eck said the community should promulgate the programs before funds exhaust in the following months.

KCM Director Susan Hastings said she knew it would be a community project when she learned of Ann Zanfardino’s case through her husband, Bill Hastings.

“The next day, the mayor and his wife, everyone showed up to help,” Ann Zanfardino said.

Churches, volunteers and nonprofit organizations have set out to repair Ann Zanfardino’s house by Oct. 1, Chelsea Lucas with Katy Responds said.

“This is a perfect example of how our community members come together when someone has a need to be met,” Bill Hastings said.

Lucas said Katy Responds has helped 30 families move back into livable homes since the nonprofit was established in 2018. Including the Zanfardino household, she said the organization is helping rebuild four other homes and will soon begin three more projects.

As time and volunteers allow, the organization canvasses homes to find those who still need help. One project they completed in March was one to help Sylvia Trevino’s family.

Trevino said she was diagnosed with cancer in 2013, beat it one year later, and then had surgery due to congestive heart failure in 2017.

“Then Harvey hits in August,” she said. “I had never felt so helpless. I couldn’t live at home for six months and even [upon] returning home, I still had a nonworking kitchen because the money from FEMA plus my personal money ran out.”

Trevino said she hopes her story will inspire others to help and to seek help.

“I couldn’t believe how many people from church groups came,” she said. “Rebuilding my home was the miracle only God could make happen.”


Kona Reserve Coffee is now open. (Courtesy of Kona Reserve Coffee)
Kona Reserve Coffee opens in Katy area

Kona Reserve Coffee, located at 4020 FM 1463, Ste. 100, Fulshear, opened May 21.

Green Trails was built out in 1998. (Jen Para/Community Impact Newspaper)
May 2020 featured neighborhood: Learn more about Green Trails in the Katy area

Home values in Green Trails range from $235,000-$529,000.

Katy ISD Chief Financial Officer Christopher J. Smith provided an update on next year's budget at the May 26 school board meeting. (Jen Para/Community Impact Newspaper)
Tax rate, salaries and COVID-19: 3 things to know about the 2020-21 Katy ISD budget

The district's chief financial officer provided an update on next year's budget at the May 26 school board meeting.

Here are the latest coronavirus updates for Katy-area readers. (Community Impact staff)
After three months of pandemic, Katy-area confirmed COVID-19 cases surpass 1,000 on May 28

Texas began reporting confirmed positive cases March 6 in Harris and Fort Bend counties.

The death total in Harris County now stands at 221. With 11,770 cases confirmed in the county, the death rate stands at 1.9%. (Community Impact staff)
Harris County coronavirus count: 1 new death confirmed May 28, 8 deaths over past 7 days

By comparison, 23 deaths were confirmed between May 16-22, and 39 deaths were confirmed between May 9-15.

Klein Oak High School graduating senior Christopher Jones II received a variety of gift items from community member Rachael. (Courtesy Allanda Nichols)
Greater Houston-area graduating seniors celebrated through online community

Seniors of the graduating Class of 2020 are being celebrated with gifts and well-wishes through organized Facebook groups and "adopt-a-senior" programs created by Greater Houston-area community members.

Only a few minor activities remain for the final phase of widening FM 1093 between an upcoming intersection with the Texas Heritage Parkway and James Lane. (José Dennis, Anya Gallant/Community Impact Newspaper)
TxDOT: FM 1093 widening project in Fulshear ‘basically done’

Only a few minor activities remain for the final phase of widening FM 1093 between an upcoming intersection with the Texas Heritage Parkway and James Lane.

Outdoor venues in all Texas counties will be permitted to operate at up to 25% capacity starting May 31. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Spectators to be welcomed back to Texas outdoor sporting events May 31 at 25% of venue capacity

Venue owners must operate under guidelines that facilitate appropriate social distancing.

Kelsey-Seybold Clinic is accepting appointments for its opening date, June 15. (Courtesy NewQuest Properties)
Kelsey-Seybold to open clinic at Katy's Grand Morton Town Center

Kelsey-Seybold Clinic will open a new two-story practice in June at Grand Morton Town Center.

Fulshear approves small business grant program

The city of Fulshear is accepting applications for a new small business grant program to help local businesses affected by COVID-19.

Students enrolled in the University of Houston College of Nursing can take classes at the Sugar Land campus. (Claire Shoop/Community Impact Newspaper)
Q&A: UH College of Nursing dean reflects on how coronavirus has affected education, profession

Kathryn Tart, dean of the University of Houston’s College of Nursing, spoke with Community Impact Newspaper about how the novel coronavirus is changing the way the university is educating nursing students.

Houston Methodist researchers conducted a 25-patient trial in March and April to examine the safety of convalescent plasma transfusions as a possible treatment for COVID-19. (Courtesy Houston Methodist)
Greater Houston-area health systems examine plasma transfusion as possible COVID-19 treatment

The experimental therapy involves the transfer of plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients to those who are currently symptomatic.