Tag Archives: Harvey Recovery

The Debt We Owe Our Heros

Veterans are not a monolith. They possess a variety of talents and skills and needs after the epic storm that crashed and stalled over Houston in Aug of 2017.  Hurricane Harvey was a call to action and many Veterans responded valiantly putting themselves in harm’s way once again to assist their own families, their neighbors, and the community-at-large. 

They borrowed John-boats and utilized high clearance vehicles, expertly jimmying equipment for high water rescue. They guided the confused and grief-stricken with clear and simple instructions to pack a survival bag and abandon things that could not be transported to higher ground. They stood up distribution warehouses and procured supplies from a generous nation and efficiency and effectively pushed water bottles, diapers, and sanitation supplies to where they were needed most in this flooded city.

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 They rendered physical and psychological first aid with compassionate and comforting expertise. They applied training, insisted on teamwork, established chains of command and networked with over-saturated emergency response systems. They warned us of the various toxic exposures in water-born illnesses, insect carried diseases and predicted the rapid growth of mold between brick and sheetrock. When they faced obstacles, they engaged in creative problem solving to invent new ways to overcome.

Technology-assisted them including Easter Seals Greater Houston’s BridgingApps program. Facebook and Instagram, walked talkie apps, even Pinterest crowdsourced ideas and speed help around a city that knew we had to help ourselves, just as we knew we depended upon each other for our literal survival. Websites were born that matched people who needed help mucking and gutting with volunteers ready to get to work clearing a path to recovery. As mountains of debris piled on curbsides, rotting in the blazing sun, the next phase of the disaster began. Once the urgency subsided, and the adrenaline supply was exhausted, aspects of community-wide post-traumatic stress became evident. 

And our Veterans suffered from familiar foes of fatigue and survivor’s guilt, hypervigilance and insomnia, nightmares and relationship turmoil, numbness and self-neglect. They were triggered by the ever-present helicopter traffic that reminded them of the sounds of war. They were triggered by cramped sleeping quarters in large rooms filled with cots and chaos.  As the immediate aftermath of the disaster waxed, Veterans of the Storm named Harvey eventually went home to their own personal disasters, that were very real whether or not their own houses were damaged by the slowly receding muddy waters that had engulfed the city. 

We owe a debt of thanks to the heroes that walk among us in civilian dress. Veterans hide in plain sight but still carry the weight of duty and profound responsibility to serve and protect this nation.  We owe them more than simple gratitude.  

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ESGH was and is proud to be at the forefront with them through Harvey and our Harvey Recovery work thanks to our community, Save The Children, The Mayor’s Fund, Americares, Freddie Mac, Simmons Foundation and so many more. (https://www.eastersealshouston.org/Programs/harvey-heroes.html) AND we are proud to be able to continue offering our veterans programs and services to our current and retired military – through our #TexasVeteransandFamilyAlliance, our #mentalhealth program and so much more as well as continuing in our efforts for Harvey Housing recovery.

Amy Harkins, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Veterans Program and Harvey Recovery, Psychologist

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Recovering Together

Camp Discovery – named by putting the words Disaster and Recovery together – served families affected by Harvey and participating in counseling services through our Harvey Case Management Program.  It was a wonderful weekend retreat!  The families participated in typical camp activities like archery, horseback riding, nature, and a ropes course, as well as “team huddles” – mental health-focused break-out sessions for parents, teens, big kids, and little kids.

Harvey blog 3.JPGCamp Discovery was just one mental health support service made possible by the grants from Americares, Save the Children, and the Houston Harvey Relief Fund.  Through these grants, our team of case managers, mental health clinicians, financial stability coaches, and technology experts – impacted over 3000 families affected by Hurricane Harvey.

In late October a team of Easter Seals staff and volunteers hosted and facilitated a camp for families impacted by Hurricane Harvey at Camp For All.  Since then we have continued to serve people with disabilities and veterans through Harvey recovery and are proud to be a recipient of continued funding from The Mayor’s Fund and Enterprise / Heart so that we can continue in our efforts through housing assistance now. The experiences and memories made were more than words can describe. I will try my best to express what I witnessed and the successes I saw. Most of the families that attended our Camp Discovery shared that this was their first time having an experience like this, all together as a family unit, away from electronics, and in tune with the elements. Many shared that they were able to try things that they had never done before such as fishing, canoeing, zip-lining, horseback riding, and being able to interact and learn about new animals.harvey blog

There was awe and surprise from the very beginning.  When one family saw the retreat that would be their home for the weekend, one boy said, “This is the nicest place we’ve ever stayed!”  And the shyness of the families with each other dissipated very quickly.  By the close of the first night, just hours after having met, they were dancing together and enjoying s’mores around the campfire.

We had several little ones try out the tall rock climbing wall to later zip-line down. Two of our participants got “stuck” near the top of their goal and were ready to give up. Tears were shed and panic set in a bit as the goal to reach the top seemed unachievable and scary so high up from the ground. One mother became concerned but with support from the mental health team was able to turn her panic into words of encouragement. The mother, alongside the other campers, cheered on Jeffery and provided guidance on stabilizing his footing so that he could pull himself up to the ledge. Jeffery was successful and enthusiastically moved on to the next challenge- zip-lining back down.

One of our younger campers also struggled near the top of his rock wall experience, but he had climbed the wall alongside his mother and she was able to provide one on one support in the moment. The support staff watched in amazement at this mother’s immediate instinct to provide reassurance and support to our brave camper while also allowing him to do all the work to get himself up.

harvey blog 2Most of the weekend, I heard parents express how amazed they were about their children and their brave efforts to try out new things and face some of their fears.

The families shared how they surprised themselves with courage and willingness to try new things.

Many of the mothers commented that a win and success for the weekend was not having to cook while also enjoying all the activities with the family.

One mom, whose house had to be totally gutted, said that they had not put up any pictures yet.  She said the frames of family photos given at camp were going to be the very first frames they put up.

Another family reminded us that the camp experience brought back similar experiences from Harvey such as staying in a different place, eating food that was not “our own”, and adjusting to a different routine, but that camp opened the space to rewrite that story and make new fun memories with the family.

Erica Toskovich, LMFT, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Mental Health Program, Easter Seals Greater Houston 

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Harvey Recovery Report

Harvey Recovery Eblast Banner

How has our community recovered since Hurricane Harvey took lives, homes, peace of mind, and more? We reflect back on all that we have overcome together in our Hurricane Harvey Recovery Report.

Thank you to our community for your support and effort!

Contact us for services or more information
Harvey@eastersealshouston.org
713-838-9050
www.eastersealshouston.org

Help our ongoing relief efforts continue to reach more Houstonians impacted by Hurricane Harvey by giving today. Donate here.

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On The Road To Recovery from Harvey

We asked one of our Harvey Case Managers, Chad, to write some thoughts down…mostly because he is clearly insightful and always has some “good nuggets” about the process of intake, referral, coordination, mental health etc leading to the road to recovery from Harvey…

And in case you ever wondered “what does a case manager do”?  Case Management “is a collaborative process of assessment, planning, facilitation, care coordination, evaluation, and advocacy for options and services to meet an individual’s and family’s comprehensive health needs through communication and available resources to promote quality, cost-effective outcomes.” Basically they are the detectives or super sleuths, if you will, of the social service world….and are genius at finding resources, that most cannot.

Most people don’t realize how many individuals are still affected by Harvey. These people are struggling every day with trying to make ends meet after losing everything and getting denied by everyone for assistance.

It’s getting harder to find clothes. One client was given pants 10 sizes too big. He gave them to a friend who could wear them at least.

I had a client the other day tell me she has been calling everyone and no one wants to approve her for any help. Some are denying her because she’s on someone else’s list …so she must go remove herself from that organization and reapply to the current one she’s trying to get help from.

I have a client who is living in a mold infested apartment. Her child has bad asthma and takes breathing treatments. Her stove shocks her when she tries to cook something.

When I call people, they are so thankful someone called them back and can provide some assistance. Most people say they haven’t been able to get anyone to call them back in months and have tried just about every major organization.

None of the FEMA adjusters seem to know what they are doing. They are mostly new hires and are learning as they go. One woman has had her house repaired by FEMA, but the repairs weren’t done properly and the house is worse than when they started.

I’m getting a lot of people who just need help replacing clothes and the small things you and I take for granted.

Everyone that I can provide direct client assistance to is thankful no matter how little it is.

I can’t count the number of people who have cried on the phone when they tell me their story and how thankful they are that I can help them. I also can’t begin to describe how amazing is feels when I’m able to provide these Harvey victims with some of the help they desperately need.

And the knowledge that we are helping families everyday rebuild their lives is the reward. Check out some Thank You‘s here!

Chad Finch, Case Manager, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Harvey Recovery Program
Need help – Harvey@eastersealshouston.org

 

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