Houston, We Have A Problem

By Beverly Gadson-Birch

According to Wikipedia, “Houston, we have a problem” has often been credited to communications between Astronaut Jack Swigert and NASA during an explosion that crippled Apollo 13 spaceflight.  Swigert’s words have been changed and shortened somewhat to the famous quote “Houston, we have a problem”.  In the aftermath of Harvey, these same words ring true, “Houston, we have a problem”.

Like, many of you, I sat spellbound while watching Hurricane Harvey wreak havoc upon Houston and surrounding areas. It was like something out of a movie. Thousands of folks had to be airlifted out of rising floodwaters and others transported by boats.  No one could have imagined the destruction.  Many residents hunkered down thinking this too shall pass.  There were no evacuation orders for Houston. Hurricane Harvey was first forecasted to hit Corpus Christi but surprisingly veered slightly off coast with major devastation to Houston.   

While the country is still reeling from the impact of Hurricane Harvey on Texas and Louisiana coasts, Hurricane Irma is gaining strength as she makes her way for a possible strike to the Florida Coast.  Charleston has been mentioned as a possible strike zone, so let’s not get comfortable.

As with Houstonians, many believe it could not possibly happen here what happened to New Orleans.  They had heard time and time again about devastating hurricanes headed their way only to find out that the hurricane took a different path or had lost some of its strength before making landfall.  There is not a whole lot of time between mandatory evacuation orders and a storm making landfall.  By the time a mandatory order is issued, cars are lined up at gas stations, store shelves are empty and the traffic leading out of town are bumper to bumper. It’s important to keep up with weather and news reports.  Check on the elderly.  Be vigilant and prepare to leave at a minute’s notice! Do not wait until the last minute to stock up on essential items, water, medication, gas, etc. Be prepared!  While you are in a wait and see mode, do not forget the local efforts to help victims of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Beaumont, Port Arthur, Lake Charles and surrounding areas.

Millions and millions of dollars have poured into the Red Cross but my understanding is not a lot of those dollars trickle down to residents to assist with restoration and rebuilding of their homes.  While we applaud the Red Cross for their valiant efforts during disasters, and they are most often the first responders on the scene providing food, shelter and clothing, victims also have immediate financial needs in restoring and/or rebuilding their homes. 

In the case of Houston, approximately 80% of homeowners and businesses do not have flood insurance.  According to CNBC, “Harris County one of the hardest hit counties in Houston had 25,000 fewer flood-insured properties than it did five years ago.  The number of policies in Houston dropped from 133,00 to 119,000.”   Homeowners without flood insurance, in addition to their mortgage(s), will be forced to apply for a Small Business Administration Loan to help restore or rebuild their homes.  There is also the possibility of homeowners losing their homes because they cannot afford the additional SBA monthly payback.

Immediately upon viewing the devastation in Houston, I realized many areas will receive clothing and some essential household goods and furniture to aid in rebuilding their lives.  There will also be illegal immigrants that are afraid to come forward out of fear of deportation or prosecution for crimes they may have committed.   I have been hearing that the immigrants should not receive any assistance.  I say if they were here before the storm  and not discovered, now is not the time.  It’s a precarious situation to say the least, but a tragedy is not the time to deny folks assistance.  There will be homeless folks coming forward to claim benefits, so be it!  They, too, have lost their livelihood for a while even if it’s corner hustling.

National Action Network (NAN) is accepting supplies to take to Houston and surrounding areas that were hard hit.  NAN is soliciting good cleaning supplies, gloves, large heavy duty garbage bags, tissue, hand towels, face masks, disinfect, baby items, new clothing, water, shoes, flash lights, batteries, etc.  Houston’s temperature is mild.  Do not send perishable items, coats or things that will just be in the way.

Please make checks payable to National Action Network, for Hurricane Harvey Relief fund, and drop off to SC Federal Credit Union or the NAN Office in the old Naval Hospital, 3600 Rivers Avenue, North Charleston.  All supplies should be boxed, taped and labeled for transit and dropped off to NAN’S Office no later than Thursday, September 7 between the hours of 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM.

Your assistance is also needed to help package items and load the trucks.  The trucks are scheduled to leave Charleston on Friday, September 8.  For additional information, contact National Action Network Office at 843-708-0081.

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