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Deep freeze is the last disaster that will happen to the needy in Houston

Houston (AP) – Ernest և Hester Collins have already run into trouble. Fifth ward.

The brother and sister were earning a fixed income without a car when the storm left them without light or heat for many days. Due to the storm, their pipes burst, leaving some without water for three weeks in the country’s fourth-largest city, as many could not be repaired. Their difficult circumstances did not allow them to wash, they had to use buckets as a toilet.

The storm, which experts say could cost billions of dollars, is simply the catastrophe of recent years that has disproportionately affected Houston’s poorest people and their poorest residents. These include major floods in 2015 և 2016, devastation from Hurricane Harvey in 2017 և, to a lesser extent, Tropical Storm Imelda, two years later plant և plant fires և explosions և, of course, coronavirus epidemic:

Surprisingly, it is not uncommon for many in these communities to be frustrated by the fact that they feel a lack of help every time a disaster strikes.

“For some reason we do not receive (assistance). “They put us on the back burner,” said Ernest Collins, 56.

“Because we are poor,” the woman’s neighbor added.

Local officials, including Mayor Sylvester Turner, say recent recovery efforts have focused on helping the needy, but their work is far from over. Community advocates are concerned that residents will continue to have problems accessing aid, that it will exacerbate illnesses in their communities, including income inequality, and lack of health care.

Last month’s storm caused power outages in much of Texas, leaving more than 1.4 million Houston customers without power. The outages also forced millions of people in Texas and elsewhere, including Mississippi, to boil their water as treatment plants lost power. About 25% of all Houston water customers have had a leak in a broken pipe. Of the 25 people killed in the hurricane in Houston, 17 were black or Latino.

Robert Bullard, a professor of urban planning and environmental policy at the University of Texas at Southern Texas, says neighborhoods with a predominantly black Latino population, such as Fifth Hospital, were initially challenged by racial segregation, such as racial discrimination. և loans.

“This is a life in struggle in many neighborhoods, having to live on a modest income, hardly,” Bullard said.

As he stood near his home, 67-year-old Hester Collins said his helplessness was fueling his depression. The only time he calmed down was listening to R&B music coming from his neighbor’s house.

“So I just have to do what God has blessed me to do,” he said.

A group of friends in a remote neighborhood who had provided informal assistance stood in front of the U-Haul truck, distributing water and other supplies.

“It’s just that we, as Texans, take care of each other,” said Quaklin Westman, a former Houston but now Austin-based group whose group raised thousands of dollars to pay for multiple deliveries in Fifth Ward.

About 6 miles (10 kilometers) northeast of another historic county, Trinity-Houston Gardens, the water flowing into Marie John Onson’s house was restored after she was without it for almost two weeks.

West Street Recovery, a non-profit organization created after Hurricane Harvey to repair flood-affected homes, worked with locksmiths to break broken pipes for residents like Onson, who could not afford it.

John Onson, 71, whose home was damaged during Harvey, said he was grateful for the help of West Street because “the government is not doing anything.” The group also supplied water to the homes of John Onson’s two sisters and his niece.

Trinity-Houston Gardens և similar neighborhoods also had to contend with industrial facilities աղ contamination of oil refineries պակաս lack of flood mitigation. In 2019, government officials announced that a cancer cluster had been found at the Fifth Hospital in the Kashmir Parks, mainly in the Latin Quarter, which may be linked to a railway yard.

“We need to invest in extremely systematic change that մարդկանց protects people from disaster when they come, և retreats, helps people care about the disaster they have already suffered,” says co-founder of West Street Recovery Becky Celle.

Some residents who were still waiting for their home to be repaired after Harvey are now suffering additional damage from last month’s storm, said Keith Downey, president of Kashmere Gardens Super Neighborhood, a community group working with the city to prioritize addressing local communities. for: needs:

The City և District Relief Fund, which has raised more than $ 11 million, will offer renovation assistance. Residents were encouraged to seek help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Although FEMA’s assistance is limited, the agency provided only $ 56 million in assistance from the refugee disaster as of Friday.

Analysis of the non-profit Texas Housers working on housing issues showed that those who applied for FEMA assistance after being rejected by Harvey, Black և Latino applicants were rejected at a higher rate than white applicants. The analysis found that the poorer the applicant, the more likely he or she was to be denied FEMA assistance.

FEMA spokesman Alberto Pilot said the agency wanted “everyone affected by the winter storm to recover as soon as possible”.

And the mayor of Houston said that the city is doing everything to help residents “stabilize the situation.”

But it is not surprising that after repeated frustrations with past recovery efforts, some Houston Latino residents remain skeptical.

“Nothing in recent memories tells (residents) that the system will work for them,” said Rue-German-Wilson, president of Trinity-Houston Gardens Super Neighborhood.

German-Wilson said that despite being exhausted and sometimes frustrated with his efforts to help his relatives, he will be pushed forward.

“We continue to work with our communities to say: “No, we will not be burdened, we are not going to give in to it.”

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Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70

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