Hurricane Harvey-caused homelessness lingers in Harris County 2 years later

Two years after Hurricane Harvey hit in August 2017, portions of the Spring and Klein community are still struggling to find adequate housing—particularly lower-income residents who were displaced or remained in flood-damaged homes, local nonprofit organizations say. Harvey victims are also experiencing health issues.

In a January 2018 survey of the homeless count in Montgomery, Fort Bend and Harris counties, 18% of unsheltered individuals, or 290 people, cited Harvey as the cause of their homelessness, according to The Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County, a nonprofit. In January 2019, there were still 190 homeless individuals who cited this reason, said Sara Martinez, the coalition’s director of development and communications.

“People who were … [living in] unstable housing or couchsurfing … are not eligible [for Federal Emergency Management Agency funding],” Martinez said. “Not having access to that funding for an already vulnerable population just makes their recovery that much more difficult.”

Increasing rent has made it harder for low-income residents to find affordable housing, she said.

Following the storm, the average apartment rent across the nine ZIP codes that make up Spring and Klein jumped from $956 in June to $981 in September and continued to climb for nearly one year, according to ApartmentData.com, a site that tracks occupancy and rental rates. In July of this year, the number hit $1,031.

“Even if they weren’t affected by Harvey, they saw their rent go up, and many of them couldn’t afford the increase,” said Brian Carr, chief advancement officer of Northwest Assistance Ministries, a social service agency. “That actually put more people out on the street.”

Lasting effects


Some Harvey victims are still living in flood-damaged homes they cannot afford to repair, which puts them at risk for respiratory and other health issues due to mold, Carr said.

“We’re estimating there’s still tens of thousands of homes in [Northwest Houston] that still need some sort of repair post-Harvey,” he said. “There’s still families living upstairs while the bottom floor is being repaired or has roof leaks that haven’t been repaired.”

According to a February update by the Hurricane Harvey Registry, a collection of surveys completed by Greater Houston-area residents, about 25% of the 13,500 survey respondents reported headaches and migraines, 20% reported shortness of breath and 10% said that they experienced skin rashes following Harvey.

Carr said families have also said they are experiencing post-traumatic stress during storms and heavy rain.

“To many of these families, it is going to be a lifelong struggle to recover,” Carr said.

For some, the effects of Harvey were irreversible.

Debbie Johnson, president of Hope Center Houston, a homeless day center on FM 1960, said she tried to save the life of a man who became homeless after Harvey and died earlier this year from exposure. Other homeless individuals are still unaccounted for.

“We had a number of folks … that were camped along Cypress Creek, and we never saw them again after Harvey,” Johnson said. “We don’t know what happened to them.”
By Eva Vigh
Eva Vigh joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2018 as a reporter for Spring and Klein. Prior to this position, she covered upstream oil and gas news for a drilling contractors' association.


MOST RECENT

Lone Star College had almost 3,000 foreign students attend in the spring semester this year. (Andrew Christman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Immigration and Customs Enforcement rules could affect thousands of Lone Star College students

Lone Star College is currently unsure how a recent ICE rule will be affected its foreign student population.

Coronavirus cases continue to rise in Harris County. (Community Impact Staff)
Harris County coronavirus count: 907 cases, 12 deaths confirmed July 9

The 12 deaths—the largest single day total in Harris County since the pandemic began—brings the total COVID-19 death count in the county to 423.

Effective July 9, hospitals in more than 100 counties across the state must now postpone elective surgeries unrelated to COVID-19. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
MAP: Governor expands restrictions on elective surgeries to more than 100 Texas counties

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott expanded the restrictions that initially required only hospitals in Bexar, Dallas, Harris, and Travis counties to postpone all non-medically necessary surgeries and procedures that are unrelated to COVID-19.

Cypress Creek Fire Department officials can notify residents of nearby emergencies, road closures and other safety alerts on a street-by-street level through the app. (Courtesy Cypress Creek Fire Department)
Cypress Creek Fire Department partners with Ring app

Cypress Creek Fire Department officials can notify residents of nearby emergencies, road closures and other safety alerts on a street-by-street level through the app.

In compliance with Gov. Greg Abbott's July 2 executive order, the University Interscholastic League is requiring the use of facial coverings when practical to do so for all summer activity participants, among other guidelines. (Graphic by Ronald Winters/Community Impact Newspaper)
UIL releases guidelines for conducting summer activities during COVID-19 pandemic

The University Interscholastic League released udpated guidelines for schools conducting summer activities such as sports training and marching band practices on July 8.

Craft Burger is one of 15 restaurants, catering companies and food trucks participating in this year's Black Restaurant Week. (Courtesy Craft Burger)
Houston's fifth annual Black Restaurant Week returns July 10-19

Participating patrons can play Black Restaurant Week Bingo and vote for their favorite participating eateries for a chance to win prizes such as restaurant gift cards, culinary treats and cash prizes.

The city of Houston confirmed only 204 new cases July 8, down from over 1,000 July 7, a discrepancy that officials attributed to a "computer system slowdown." (Community Impact Staff)
Harris County coronavirus count: 701 new cases confirmed as hospitalizations hold steady July 8

The city of Houston confirmed only 204 new cases July 8—down from over 1,000 July 7—a discrepancy that officials attributed to a "computer system slowdown."

Census worker
2020 census: Bureau prepares nonresponse follow-up field operations

For individuals who have not responded to the 2020 census, one of about 500,000 census takers will visit the their household between Aug. 11-Oct. 31.

Home sales were up across most pricing categories in Houston in June, with a 15.7% jump as compared to the same period last year. (Community Impact staff)
Despite COVID-19, year-over-year Houston-area home sales up nearly 16% in June

Home sales were up across most pricing categories in Houston in June, with a 15.7% jump as compared to the same period last year.

Emler Swim School operates 28 year-round locations in Texas and Kansas. (Courtesy Emler Swim School)
Emler Swim School now offering interactive lessons online

Families can choose to receive training via weekly video calls or through instructional videos online.

Eligible businesses in Harris County may receive a grant of up to $25,000. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Applications open soon for Harris County's $30 million small business assistance program

Eligible small businesses may receive a grant of up to $25,000 to cover payroll costs, rent and other operating expenses.