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Dirty truth of Houston’s hurricane recovery

in Crisis & Natural Disasters by

The red tape of bureaucracy is one of many setbacks making Houston’s cleanup recovery, a slow and arduous process.

Still in the city, there are mounds of debris that need to be hauled. But after its hauling, the question of where to place the toxic trash is another unsolved issue.

While local officials work for more funding from state and federal agencies, Houston’s residents slowly attempt to put their lives together. For those directly affected, most homes are unlivable with toxic mold, fumes and contaminated water.

Another concern comes from cleanup workers who express the most health and safety concerns in a post-hurricane Texas. Rising reports of workers using shopping carts to transport moldy debris and materials while wearing improper protective clothes, if any, show gross exploitation.

This points to the fact that many construction workers in the state are undocumented and unprotected, creating another level of difficulty.

H-Town

Photo credit: Daemaine

Houston’s difficult journey to get back to its vibrancy points back to a city that grew faster than its capacity.

Before Hurricane Harvey crippled the southern city known for producing Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and the jalapeño sausage, the southern metropolis boomed as a big oil haven.

Over 90 languages are spoken in Houston, a city that houses large and diverse Latino community, South Asian, African, and a longtime African American community.

As Houston became a destination for immigrant communities and migrants, developers encroached on flood zones, building housing in areas that historically would be overtaken by water in the event of a major storm. At the same time, buildings replaced natural barriers of hurricanes, the wetlands of the area.

Coupled with the oil refineries that line the city, when the flood waters overwhelmed the city those in its path did not stand a chance in the aftermath. As Houston works in navigating budget constraints, the poorest residents are the most affected. With not enough money to relocate, and little agency to find affordable, healthy housing, they are them most susceptible to health and deeper economic woes.

Now, many residents are displaced and finding difficulty to relocated in a stressed housing market. Ironically, Houston was the most desirable relocation destination for New Orleans residents displaced by 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. Now like New Orleanians, the city fears that people who are leaving will never come back.

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