MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Thursday, the 30th of August, 2018.
Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up, Texas marks a storm anniversary this week.
It was a year ago that Hurricane Harvey barreled into the Gulf Coast of Texas … and churned overhead for days.
Soon after, WORLD Radio’s Leigh Jones brought you the story of James Yoakum. He lives in Friendswood, south of Houston, and had just begun gutting his flooded house, which took on 6 feet of water.
In the days afterward, friends from Nassau Bay Baptist Church came to help. They made quick work of the cleanout. But rebuilding has taken a lot longer.
REICHARD: A year later, the Yoakum family still aren’t fully recovered. And they’re not alone. About a third of Harvey victims say their lives are still disrupted. Of those displaced from their houses, almost one in ten still haven’t come home.
Leigh Jones recently revisited the Yoakums in Friendswood to find out more about the family’s recovery process.
AUDIO: [Sound of volunteers]
LEIGH JONES, NEWS EDITOR: Lesli Yoakum weaves her way through stacks of books and boxes of toys that fill her living room. She’s looking for a bundle of newspapers the volunteer painters can put down to protect her new floor.
A year after Harvey wiped out the first story of their house, the Yoakums are still living in a construction zone.
YOAKUM: And so we’ve been living upstairs basically since September 11th making due with a rented fridge and a rented microwave and frozen meals. [laughs] We’ve got our church family out here today helping us paint, so that we can be back to quote unquote normal.
Like many of Harvey’s victims, the Yoakums do not live in a flood zone and didn’t have flood insurance. FEMA quickly approved their request for assistance, but the funds didn’t come close to covering their rebuilding costs.
YOAKUM: They funded us, what averages out to $10 a square foot, which, unfortunately, nobody can rebuild anything on $10 a square foot.
The Yoakums made up the difference with help from their church and family—the rest came out of their own pockets.
YOAKUM: So, but here we are a year later and after today with the painting assistance, we’re going to be 95 percent done. The only thing that’s going to be left is what to do with the fireplace.
All around the Houston area, Harvey’s damage spread out like fingers. That’s because the waterways spilled over their banks and into nearby neighborhoods. People who didn’t live near creeks or bayous escaped … and quickly went on with their lives.
Lesli Yoakum usually gets incredulous looks when she mentions the ongoing work at the family’s home
YOAKUM: I just kind of have to laugh because most everybody went on, and for the rest of us, we’re still recovering.
Dana Rust hears similar reactions all the time. She coordinates volunteer efforts for Nassau Bay Baptist Church.
RUST: People still aren’t in their houses. Their houses still aren’t done? Really? They still need help? That’s what I hear a lot and I’m like, yeah, I know. Yeah, they still need help and they really could use an extra set of hands …
Ben Baldwin also coordinates volunteer teams. He’s director of the 4B Disaster Response Network, a nonprofit formed by area churches to coordinate recovery efforts.
4B covers a 540-square-mile area from the southern tip of Houston to Galveston, on the Gulf Coast. About 24-hundred families requested help from 4B in the weeks following the storm.
Baldwin had no trouble filling construction teams—at first.
BALDWIN: But as people started to recover and businesses started to recover and people started going back to work and going back to their lives and schools opened and all that, um, the volunteer pool, you know, shrunk rapidly.
Baldwin estimates about half the people who initially asked for help still need it.
BALDWIN: And they contact us, and maybe we were able to do some work in their home, but we weren’t able to complete it, and they’re asking us when can you come back? And it’s so difficult to tell people we’re going to be there as soon as we have more volunteers, as soon as another group comes through and we have resources. But there are so many that are waiting for help that it’s just heartbreaking.
In March, 4B partnered with Mississippi-based Eight Days of Hope on a rebuilding blitz that lasted 15 days and involved almost 5-thousand volunteers from all over the country. The group plans to bring back about 2-thousand volunteers in October.
But even then, the work won’t be finished.
Ben Baldwin hopes the Harvey anniversary will spark renewed interest in recovery efforts, especially among God’s people.
BALDWIN: The evidence of God’s hand in being present and in the efforts of all of these groups is, is, um, overwhelmingly clear. It’s, it’s been, it’s been amazing to see what God does when people come together and try to do things in His name. It’s been, been been very powerful.
For WORLD Radio, I’m Leigh Jones reporting from Friendswood, Texas.