Port Arthur’s Simmons family finally back home years after Hurricane Harvey

Published 12:14 am Friday, January 17, 2020

Jessie Simmons and her husband Herbert stand in the middle of a house. The awestruck pair looks down at the polished wood flooring, checks out the walk-in closet in the master bedroom, the shining kitchen and new appliances, accessible shower and winding back porch.

A smile forms on Jessie’s face just as tears begin to well in her eyes. She stares at her new home, speechless, realizing for the first time in two years that she isn’t just dreaming.

“It’s like a dream that I’ve been waiting for all this time,” she said. “It took two years and we thought this day would never come, but it finally came. I just keep pinching myself to make sure that it’s real, that this is really here, this is really my home.”

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Brizo Construction presented the Simmons family with their new and improved home Thursday afternoon, marking it as their 100th Hurricane Harvey home to be rebuilt in Texas in conjunction with the Texas General Land Office disaster relief program.

President of Brizo Construction Cody Lee said his family-owned company joined the recovery project seven months ago and they have since made it their mission to build quality homes for those struck by the tragedy.

Jessie Simmons, left, and her husband Herbert, right, embrace the president of Brizo Construction Cody Lee, center, after being presented their new home in Port Arthur as the 100th Hurricane Harvey home to be rebuilt.

“Everyone knows Hurricane Harvey was horrible,” he said. “A lot of people were flooded in this place and it takes a long time to get going. The GLO rolled out their home-rebuilding program last year. We were one of the builders in the program, so this is our 100th house in seven months to complete from start to finish.”

The General Land Office’s total count of rebuilt homes is roughly 500, Lee said.

“This is super exciting,” he said. “We are celebrating and getting people back in their houses who need help. We are a family-owned company and a lot of people here have kids, so when we are able to help people get their families and their lives back — it’s a great feeling.”

As Jessie and her husband tour the rest of their home, she recalls the tragedy and heartache her family suffered through during Harvey. She said the toughest part was being separated from her husband through what were some of the worst moments of her life.

“When it happened, my husband was here in Port Arthur and there was water all inside our house,” she said. “I couldn’t even get to him because I was away in Louisiana taking care of a patient when it happened. We were separated for a whole month. We couldn’t find our way to each other.”

Herbert said he had to be rescued by boat after he became flooded in.

“We had over five feet of water in our house,” he said. “They had to boat me in from the railroad tracks because I couldn’t get out. Luckily, we had a friend take us in because he’s a single man and he had the extra room, but we sure did miss being home.”

The Simmons spent the last two years jumping from motel to apartment to couch between Humble and Louisiana until they were welcomed back home with a sea of familiar faces and a new house.

“All I can say is, ‘thank you Lord for supplying this beautiful home for us,’” Jessie said. “I’m just so blown away and I don’t know what to say. I can’t believe this beautiful home is ours. We are blessed and happy to finally be home.”

Herbert and Jessie’s new home is located at 5440 Grant Avenue in Port Arthur. Both said they want to extend their gratitude to Brizo Construction, the Texas General Land Office and God.

“Bless y’all, for blessing us,” she said. “We wouldn’t have this beautiful home without you. My heart is full, so thank y’all for making our dream come true.”