The press has been inundated with stories of Houstonians affected by Hurricane Harvey, which so far has resulted in the evacuation of more than 30,000 people in the region. But a new article from Mother Jones takes a close look at a neighborhood that was still recovering from the impact of a 2016 flood when Harvey hit.
Greenspoint is located in the Northern District of the city. The approximately 116,000 residents are predominantly Latinx and one-third live below the poverty line.
In the article, “This Impoverished Texas Community Was Still Recovering from Last Year’s Terrible Flood When Harvey Struck,” which was published yesterday (August 30), Mother Jones reports:
In April 2016, during a storm that was dubbed the Tax Day Flood, the Houston area saw 15 inches of rain in 24 hours, with most of it falling within a ten-hour period. Hundreds of people were rescued from the floods and eight people were killed. The devastation was citywide, but Greenspoint—an impoverished community with more than one of three residents living below the federal poverty line—bore the brunt of it. Alarmingly, 72 percent of Greenpoint’s multi-family housing is in a flood zone, so during the Tax Day Flood, around 2,000 of those apartment homes flooded—some were still waiting for repair when Harvey struck.
The artice, written by Nathalie Baptiste, goes on to detail how Houston does not have environmental zoning laws. This means that property owners can decide themselves what degree of flood protections, such as dikes, they want to install—if any.
In Greenspoint, one of the largest residential units—home to 900 families—is the Arbor Court Apartments. It is a federally-subsidized, but privately-owned affordable housing building for families of four making $34,600 a year. The property, as well as 16 other complexes that were hit hard in last year’s rain, are in a designated flood zone.
On average, Arbor Court residents pay one-third of their income in rent, which kept many from moving even after the Tax Day Flood. Per Mother Jones:
Several months after the flooding last year, residents of Greenspoint were still living in water-damaged and moldy units. Many residents didn’t have the resources to move.
Hurricane Harvey made landfall on Friday evening and by Sunday morning, Arbor Court and the rest of Greenspoint was flooded:
While officers from the Houston Police Department used boats to help residents at the Arbor Court Apartments evacuate, the water on the surrounding roads had already reached neck-deep levels.
Residents have tied two kayaks to a speed boat to try to rescue people stranded in Greenspoint’s floodwaters. pic.twitter.com/8Up4l0hUrX
— Rebecca Elliott (@rfelliott) August 27, 2017
By Tuesday, the neighborhood’s Red Cross shelter was at capacity and out of food.
While there is now global attention on Houston, the residents of Greenspoint still face the near herculean task of recovering from Harvey:
To complicate matters, low-income people do not possess the resources necessary to evacuate safely during a disaster: Cash for food, gas for travel and some place dry to stay. And rebuilding can be an even more monumental task, as can be seen by the slow recovery from last year’s flood. This year, some residents evacuated while others chose to stay.
When asked by the Houston Chronicle if she feared the pending hurricane, one Greenspoint resident, Nora Martinez, told them, “I’m a little scared. Because I already went through this.”
Read the entire article here.