Stronger Disaster Response

It was in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and under less than desirable circumstances my family had the opportunity of meeting a very sweet Friendswood resident with a beautiful heart in the Forest Bend neighborhood of our city. Over the past several months we have stayed in touch and have gotten to know her very well, and now consider her a friend. She has gone through a lot during this difficult time, like many in her neighborhood, and she still is not totally settled back into her home. Some of her neighbors have not returned, leaving empty and lonely shells of homes. Many residents appear to be disillusioned and discouraged. Most are still seeking a path forward to a new post-Harvey normal.

Last week I attended Forest Bend’s HOA meeting to hear more about the problems they are facing and to see what assistance they still might need, as well as how the city and community-at-large could be of help. What I heard was enough to make the strongest person crumble at the knees, the hurt was so overwhelming. In some areas of the city it appears Harvey is behind us, but let me assure you, the storm is still very real here. One of the biggest issues is the hauling away of material removed from home interiors, as the debris that has built up is significant. I have seen this firsthand and agree it is a problem. Just driving through the neighborhood makes it obvious, as it still has many indicators of recent disaster. One person at the meeting spoke about rodents and snakes in piles of debris being a problem close to where children wait for their school bus. Part of the dilemma is funding constraints that caused the City of Friendswood to discontinue the contract with the heavy haul contractor. The residents are concerned the personal cost to be incurred for this removal could extend the reconstruction of their individual homes even further because of the need to redirect funds that could be applied to rebuilding costs. There are many difficult factors at play in this decision, and I am working to collect as much information as possible.

There are also other issues to contend with such as a confusion over what completion criteria must be met to obtain an occupancy certificate and concerns regarding cleanup of Clear Creek to avoid potential future flooding. To those who are struggling it is overwhelming. Forest Bend is one such area in our city, there are other areas in our city facing similar issues and solutions to those issues are required.

I am working to engage churches and other community resources to see what assistance we might be able to provide. If your church or volunteer group is providing services, please let me know. I am working as best I can to connect residents in need with services available. It will not be easy and there are potentially several different approaches required to bring relief to those in need. Unfortunately, the reminder of the impact of Harvey will remain with us some time in the foreseeable future. Working together, listening to the needs of the residents and leveraging the resources available to us in a way that benefits the community as a whole, we can Make Friendswood Stronger.