Islamic Relief USA’s Disaster Response Team Manager Hani Hamwi describes his experience delivering aid in the aftermath of the Houston floods.
Losing a home is more than just losing shelter and a roof over your head; it’s losing all the little things that make that structure a home. Children lose their toys, school books, and stuffed animals. They watch their parents and caretakers struggle to find a way to stay safe. The most affected are those living in apartment complexes, most of the time with government assistance.
They have nowhere to go.
Immediately after a disaster, these shelters are crucial. But the experience of living in one can have extremely traumatizing effects for both adults and children. Imagine living and sleeping in an open space without privacy: it’s not a simple adjustment to make. The American Red Cross (ARC) and other mass care organizations do their best to comfort those displaced families.
As I sit in the service center where our team is giving cash assistance, it is heart-wrenching to listen to those affected by the storm. Their needs range from food to cash assistance for refills of medicine that was destroyed by the water damage. A natural disaster such as this one can affect a family in just about every way imaginable, and sometimes in ways we can’t imagine.
The storm hit overnight with no notice, no time to prepare. There were flood warnings, but many did not have the means to evacuate, and many did not understand the severity of the storm. Most residents awoke to the sounds of refrigerators and dumpsters floating and hitting the sides of their homes. Imagine the shock of waking up to four feet of water in your living room.
The IRUSA Disaster Response Team arrived on the ground a few days after the storm and we immediately began conducting disaster assessments with ARC. This is the process of assessing the damage to areas that were reported to ARC by the emergency management and the city. This process helps thousands of families get assistance from Islamic Relief and other NGOs like ARC Catholic Charities and more. Governmental organizations like FEMA also use these disaster assessments to identify areas of need.
After a week and thousands of disaster assessments in the data base, it was time to move families from shelters and get them the assistance they needed to get back on their feet. We are currently working at a service center giving cash assistance to those families. The disaster assessments play a vital role, helping response teams verify who needs help.
And we will continue working together to get it to them.