After having to suffer the pain of Harvey reaching into their homes, storm victims are now being subjected to the indignity of scavengers picking through their discarded water-damaged items waiting for pickup.
Placing discarded items on a public right of way legally makes them available for others to collect. While digging through these piles may be legal by the letter of the law, we would like to strongly encourage people to understand how unnerving and personally invasive it can be to victims still reeling from the storm.
Simply put, scavenging through the results of another’s misfortune is bad form.
“There is nothing more painful than to look out your window and see you entire life sitting on the curb like trash,” said one victim to The Daily News during the floods.
The cities of Dickinson and League City were dramatically affected by flooding. An estimated 20,000 homes in Galveston County were damaged from flooding.
In League City alone, an estimated 7,700 homes, 23 percent of the city’s residences, were damaged.
While a month has passed since the storm, recovery crews continue to work to remove the monumental volume of debris resulting from residential flooding.
Meanwhile, League City police have received many calls about people picking through debris piles at night. And several residents have complained to Mayor Pat Hallisey about the same thing, he said.
Some people have dubbed the nocturnal scroungers “looters,” although their activity isn’t a crime unless they venture out of city rights of way and onto private property, officials said.
“At night, after they go to bed, evidently there are people who make it through these piles kind of picking out what they want to keep for themselves,” Hallisey said.
“People who don’t belong in that neighborhood are coming and taking what they want, and their ultimate concern is when they can’t get what they want at the curb, are they going to be coming in the front door?”
Beyond this personal impact, there are very real environmental and health issues to be concerned about. Items discarded due to water damage are sitting on curbs for a reason. The aftereffects of water damage can contribute to issues of bacteria and mold — both leading to the potential of serious health risks.
Bringing waterlogged items into your home is potentially putting your life and others in danger.
Galveston County residents may one day look back on the flooding resulting from Harvey with great pride, one where neighbors helping neighbors, strangers helping strangers was the norm. A moment to be proud to say the least. We certainly hope so.
But let’s remember that behind the pile of debris on the curb, a few feet away is a homeowner suffering the pain of seeing an entire life parked alongside the street. Let’s be neighborly and offer to help them — not add to their pain.
• Leonard Woolsey