So, we’re sort of in limbo at the moment. We’ve gotten to the point where most of the house is cleared out (material wise) and everything has been drying for two weeks now. They say you need to let studs and concrete dry for 2-3 weeks before spraying the mold control solution on it. That time gives everything a chance to either bloom (mold) and be identified as a trouble spot, or to dry completely and be treated as a preventative. We’ve had fans going full blast since the week of the storm. The electricity bill is going to be ridiculous this month, but if it helps prevent mold, it’s probably worth it.
Unfortunately, as we’ve been assessing things, and trying to make plans for repair, we keep finding little spots we missed. The kitchen cabinets for example. We thought they were fine a week ago. Yesterday we looked deep into the backs of them and two of them have spots we’re concerned about. They’re also “job built” cabinets (built directly onto the wall, not an enclosed box that can be removed), so we’ll have to crawl into them, cut out the sheet rock from the backs of them, and spot treat them to prevent more mold.
Mold. Man, what a pain in the ass. If you don’t get it all, it will kill you. Literally.
A lot of people also keep asking where we are with the rebuilding process. Unfortunately, “nowhere” is the answer. You see, for situations like this all sorts of processes and systems swing into action (or lack there of). Here’s how the basic process works, for those of you unfamiliar (and I hope you are) with natural disasters:
First, you call your insurance agent and start a claim. You do this whether you have coverage for whatever actually happened or not. Even if you don’t, as was our case, being “denied” is actually an important step. So, we have “home owners” and “wind storm” coverage, but not flood. We didn’t live in a flood plain, it hadn’t flooded in the recorded history of people living in this area. 500 year flood. Literally. So, we’re going to get ZERO from our home owners policy, but the inspector has to come out anyway. He’s not coming until NEXT WEEK. For those of you keeping track, that’s 4 weeks after the storm. Obviously, they’re busy people, but that’s kind of a long time, and starting to get on my nerves. We might be shopping for new home owners quotes next year. I digress.
Second step is FEMA. We applied for FEMA assistance while the storm was actually still on-top of us. This past Friday (3 weeks post storm) we went to a FEMA support center and waited for 2 hours to actually talk to someone in person. The way FEMA works is that they help if you don’t have insurance, and/or that you’ve been denied by your insurance (see why the above step was first!). A FEMA inspector needs to come out now and do an assessment, after you provide proof that you’re denied coverage. That’ll be some time in the next 20 days. We learned on Friday that our case has been assigned an inspector and that they’ll call to set up a time to meet.
Then, FEMA sends you to talk to the folks at the SBA (Small Business Association). They have a loan program for natural disaster relief. See, if you’re not completely and totally poor, they’d like you to pay back a loan rather than get a hand-out, which makes sense. I’m not opposed to paying back the repair cost, and the loans are long term with very little interest. So, we went through that process, but that process relies on the assessment of the inspector to get a ball park range for the cost of repairs.
The step after that is to contact Texas ONA, which is a supplemental agency designed to help replace person possessions. FEMA helps with the house, the ONA helps with your stuff. As is apparently the case for every agency, they ALSO send an inspector. That’ll be a couple weeks from now (like 5-6).
This has all made me borderline crazy. I’m an impatient person, and bureaucracy is the very definition of slowness. I WANT TO FIX THIS… and I can’t. I have to wait for all of this to run it’s course because people coming to assess damages want to SEE DAMAGES. I can’t fix things until they see them.
So, what’s MY plan? My plan is to do everything in my power to make things stupidly easy for an inspector. Everything has had a picture taken of it, everything has been documented. I’m creating spreadsheets, I’m printing photos, I’m burning DVDs of all this, etc. By the time an adjuster comes out, I want to hand him a folder of stuff with an already tallied number and be done with it all.
I’m also trying to prep a work space. Since my garage was totaled, and is now empty, that seems like a logical place. Re-sheetrocking it will take 10 sheets total, which is doable on our current non-existent budget. My father-in-law has an unused (still on box), window AC unit he’s giving me, and I have a couple saw-horses as a make shift table. If I can get the garage clean, dry and below 100 degrees, I can store furniture in it, cut sheet rock, paint stuff, etc. My friend Jack has also arranged a “POD” to be delivered next week, giving me storage space for all the hard case furniture and stuff that might be ruined in a garage. So, next week, if I can get those two spaces up and running, we’ll essentially “move out” of our house, so that work can be started the minute we get past all this inspection stuff, which should (and I’m being optimistic) be sometime in October.
Then we rebuild.
That’s easier said than done, but I’m sure I’m going to have lots more posts on that.
That brings me to the final part of this post. I’ve had dozens and dozens of people ask me how they can help, and I’ve had a very hard time answering that question. I’m normally not one for charity, but I also recognize that people want to help and that I should respect that. My friends made me accept donations last week and it brought me to tears. It was so meaningful and powerful, and a good reminder to check your pride at the door if you’re ever in need of help. They felt good about giving, I felt overwhelmed by their generosity.
With that in mind, someone suggested I make a list of ways and means that people can help.
First, we set up an Amazon Wishlist called “Because of Harvey”. On it, I’ve just been putting immediate needs and things we discover are broken/un-salvageable because of water damage. It’s mostly random, and runs the gamut between respirator filters, bed pillows, and a pair of shoes. It’s little stuff that I wasn’t thinking of “putting up” when we were trying to get things out of the way of water. The kiddo had toys on the floor in the playroom that are now covered with creek water/slime. I had shoes under the bed and my pillow fell off and was on the floor. Stuff like that. I don’t expect anyone to buy any of that stuff, but if you feel lead in some way, it’s an open and public list, and it directly replaces things we lost.
Next, home repair is obviously going to be huge this fall. I’m sure I’m going to be buying truck loads of sheet rock screws, paint, base board, and all the random tools to do all of this with. I’d never turn down any help in the form of Home Depot or Lowes giftcards. They would be well and truly used to help put this mess back together.
If you would rather support organizations that helped us directly, there are two outstanding groups of people that came through in our time of need:
First, our church, Second Baptist Houston, organized entire crews of people to help not only church members, but our entire community. They had, at last count, 30,000 volunteers who cleaned/demoed/mediated 2500 homes in a two week span. If you feel lead to support the work these awesome people did, they set up a Flood Relief Fund through PushPay, and I can attest to it personally that every dime of it is going to help Houston families clean and rebuild.
Next, the people who actually rescued us were part of that rag-tag group of heroes known as the Cajun Navy. The boat we were in was driven buy a couple Texans from Dallas, but they were part of the Zello network of Cajun Navy guys who were operating in our area. They’re slightly harder to donate to, but as it’s a citizens group, I’m sure they’re dispersing the funds with the least amount of red-tape possible. These guys, literally, saved our lives and the lives of hundreds of families in our neighborhood. They have websites here, and here, and a facebook page here, both with ways to contact and donate.
Last but not least, there are several groups who came from far and wide to help Houston and Friendswood in general. The Glen Burnie Volunteer Fire Department drove all the way from Maryland and set up shop at the elementary school and cooked hot meals for two weeks! The group from Samaritans Purse was in our neighborhood demoing houses. The First Methodist Church of Waco drove all the way down and handed out 5 gallon painters buckets filled with cleaning supplies. The list goes on and on, but I know those specific groups were very visible and right in the thick of it these past couple weeks.
There has been such an outpouring of support that I just can’t thank everyone enough. I’m constantly overwhelmed by the love and well-wishes from everyone. You are all amazing. Thank you all again, from the bottom of my heart.