EDITORIAL — Harvey help available, but you’ve got to apply

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 29, 2019

That two-bed, one-bath Hurricane Harvey “recovery house” — brand new! — that beckons from 31st Street to passersby on Memorial Boulevard in Port Arthur serves as a ready reminder that help is not only on the way: It’s here for folks who’ve lost their homes.

Yes, there are only a handful of new homes completed for Jefferson County people who sustained devastating damages during the August 2017 hurricane and tropical storm that dropped 60 inches of rain on our community. Some 80 percent of Port Arthur itself was flooded.

The owners at the former home at 2847 31st Street weathered that storm until around midnight, when water entered it. They were rescued by people from New Mexico.

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Later — much later, it seemed — the Department of Housing and Urban Development initiated a recovery plan for eligible Texas Coast homeowners who lost their residences here. The Texas General Land Office was the state conduit for the program and the city of Port Arthur opened a “one-stop shop” for Harvey homeowner victims who had housing needs.

Roughly, here’s the breakdown for homeowner assistance: If your home sustained less than $65,000 in damages, HUD would help to repair. More than $65,000 in damages, HUD would fund a home to replace it for eligible homeowners.

Those 31st Street homeowners did the right thing: They sought the help that was offered and available. Their new home, built safely above the flood level, will be ready in a few weeks.

We toured the home with GLO representative Rhonda Masters, who said there are a handful of homes now completed in Jefferson County, more homes with construction underway and still more coming into the HUD pipelines. Seventeen reputable contractors, vetted by GLO contractor AECOM, will replace yet more homes for eligible homeowners over the next four to six years.

Here’s the rub, though: If you want the help, you’ve got to go to the 501 Building on Procter Street where AECOM representatives continue to assist homeowners. See www.recovery.texas.gov for information.

We visited the first new home completed in Port Acres at Easter. At the 31st Street home this week, we met contractor Shelby Sessums of Tegrity Homes, one of the approved contractors.

Sessums, whose own family farm home in Montgomery County was flooded in 2010, remembers well the heartbreak of watching her possessions destroyed; the family’s cows were washed away.

That’s why she traveled to Jefferson County during the Harvey floods to make rescues here; it’s why she takes special pleasure in building new homes for flood victims.

We urge Greater Port Arthur people who have not visited the 501 Building or GLO-contracted assistance sites elsewhere in the Jefferson-Orange-Hardin region to do so now. Assistance may still be available — but you’ve got to seek it.