A state program designed to provide immediate disaster housing assistance after Hurricane Harvey has finished basic repairs on 20 homes in Galveston County.
And contractors on Thursday completed the first home on the island in the same program.
The historic storm damaged about 20,000 homes in the county, and in the following months, the state identified 6,820 Galveston County residents who were eligible for a program meant to allow them to stay in their homes as they made repairs.
More than four months later, the Partial Repair and Essential Power for Sheltering Program, or PREPS, has completed 20 projects in Galveston County, the Texas General Land Office said Thursday.
Along the Texas coast, the land office reports 147 completed projects and another 1,875 homes in progress.
The land office as of Wednesday had made 61,304 calls and sent 32,739 emails to Texas residents who would qualify for the program, land office spokeswoman Brittany Eck said.
The program is not a complete repair program, and is limited to making $20,000 worth of repairs, Eck said. The work is fast, taking only two days in some cases, Eck said.
The names and contact information came from Federal Emergency Management Agency applications, Eck said.
In Galveston County, contractors are working on another 168 homes for the program while another 143 are ready for work to begin.
FIRST ON THE ISLAND
Linda Ahmed returned to her Galveston home Thursday. It’s the first home on the island that contractors have completed through the Partial Repair and Essential Power for Sheltering Program, contractor Steve Mataro said. Dozens more are in the queue, he said.
While most of the county’s 20,000 Harvey-damaged homes are on the mainland, about 154 homes in Galveston are estimated to have sustained damage from wind or flooding during Harvey. The damage total was about $1.42 million, Galveston officials said.
Most of the homes have an estimated average of $5,000 in damage, while 14 homes reported an average of $30,000 in damage. One home on the West End had major damage, to the tune of $300,000, from a fire that occurred during the hurricane, city officials said.
Ahmed’s house is on the East End, a couple of blocks from the seawall. She stayed with family and friends in Dallas for most of the past four months. Her home on Avenue N still had a couple of inches water two weeks after Harvey hit the Texas Coast on Aug. 25, 2017.
“I saw it and thought, ‘I’m not able to stay here,’” she said.
The mold that grew under the floorboard exacerbated her asthma, but that wasn’t the only problem. The front door wouldn’t shut because floodwater swelled the wood. She had to use a padlock, but she didn’t feel safe staying there, she said.
She has lived in the house for most of the past 35 years. Hurricane Ike in 2008 displaced her from her home for a time, she said. The post-Harvey basic repairs to her house included some replaced Sheetrock, a new air-conditioning window unit, a new heater and a new door that fits and shuts properly, she said.
Ahmed is limited to just one small bedroom and bathroom, but she’ll be able to make other repairs while living at home, Mataro said.
Of the 6,820 FEMA applicants in Galveston County who were eligible for the program, the land office only was able to reach 2,069 residents by Thursday, Eck said. Only 832 of those residents opted to participate while another 1,237 opted out of the program, Eck said.
One reason why the land office has had a hard time contacting residents is that some suspected the calls were scams and didn’t understand or trust the information, Eck said. Others did not recognize the phone number, so just didn’t answer the unknown call.
To combat this problem and to help residents get other information, the land office opened up a new phone line Monday. Anyone who has a question about the Partial Repair and Essential Power for Sheltering Program or any other land office housing program can call 888-958-0877.
Many people need more information about the housing programs, Mataro said. He encourages residents to find the answers.
“Don’t give up,” Mataro said. “Call.”