Recovery from 2017 Hurricane Harvey continues in Dickinson

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Jeff Elsey has moved around a lot over the past 18 months.

The Galveston County Daily News reports after spending about 24 hours in his attic when Hurricane Harvey flooded his home in August 2017, Elsey, 47, and his family spent some time at a friend’s house, then more time in a new RV camper, and then more time in a Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer parked in his backyard.

On Friday, he moved again, back into his home on Lobit Drive in Dickinson. His family — his wife, two sons, mother-in-law and four dogs — enjoyed a homecoming meal from Dickey’s Barbecue Pit and settled into their new old digs, which are now 15 feet higher off the ground.

It was a bittersweet feeling, he said. They were back in their house, but had lost most of their possessions to Harvey.

“The loss is so tremendous,” he said. “I can’t really put a dollar figure on it.”

Elevating the house alone cost $80,000, he said.

This is the state of things in Dickinson, 18 months after the storm. Homeowners are seeing incremental progress, most of it self-driven as the wait continues for government-run recovery programs to ramp up.

It leaves some people in limbo. The Elseys, for instance, can live in their home, but are still waiting for a set of steps to be built to lead to their new front door.

The family can enter the house only by a set of temporary steps leading to the back door, Elsey said.

Elsey was waiting for a state program to decide whether it would help pay for the final stages of his repairs, he said.

“I’m a little frustrated with the programs,” Elsey said. “The front of the house is done, but we don’t have the back and the sides. The bricks are starting to fall off and we’ve borrowed steps from a church, just to get inside.”

The wheels have started turning on recovery programs, however, recovery officials said.

Two months ago, the Texas General Land Office opened up applications for its homeowner assistance program.

Since then, hundreds of people have completed applications to join the program, but actual construction work through the program has mostly yet to start, local officials said Monday.

In Galveston County, about 500 people have signed up for the land office’s program, said Lynda Perez, the director of disaster case management for the Galveston County Long Term Recovery Group.

The program will repair or rebuild qualifying homes that were damaged by Hurricane Harvey’s floods. The land office received $258 million to fund home rebuilding programs across Texas and expects to repair or rebuild about 2,000 homes in a six-county region that includes Galveston County by the time the program ends. The recovery group estimated there could be as many as 10,000 qualifying homes in Galveston County alone.

The program is still very much in early days, Perez said.

Most of the people that signed up for the program early are starting to enter the inspection phase of the assistance program, Perez said. The process will determine whether a person qualifies for extensive home repairs or an entire rebuild.

Other people are not even that far on in the process.

Dickinson resident Alison Johnson Galdamez, 57, lives with her 19-year-old daughter and 2-year-old grandson in a mobile home off of Kansas Avenue.

Although raised off the ground, the mobile home was flooded during the storm. Johnson Galdamez remembers seeing little fish swimming in the yard as she waded in to survey the damage in the days after the storm.

Her family moved back in to mobile home last March, but it still needs a lot of work, Johnson Galdamez said. The floor is still bare plywood, and the stairs to the front entrance are practically collapsing.

After applying for the homeowner assistance program in December, Johnson Galdamez has had to submit paperwork several times in attempt to meet the participation requirements, she said.

She’s awaiting a response about whether she qualifies at all because she owns the mobile home, but not the land under it, she said.

While acknowledging that she’s received guidance through a case manager, and from a church group that’s helped people with some repairs, she said recovery help seems threadbare.

“I haven’t seen anyone getting help from anyone,” she said. “I’ve almost rebuilt the darn thing myself.”

The personal recovery work is tiring, Johnson Galdamez said. She had expected to be fully rebuilt within a year of the storm, she said. Now, she doesn’t know when she’ll get to that point. Her fatigue and wet winter weather have prevented her from doing more repair work on her own home, she said.

So, for now, it’s down to doing paperwork, and waiting.

“You get to a point emotionally where you’re sunk and you’re done,” she said. “So for the last couple months, I’ve kind of been at a standstill.”

While the start of construction looms, the land office is still seeking people to sign up for the program. The agency will hold signup fairs in Bacliff on Monday and Hitchcock on March 1 and March 2.

People who think they might qualify for the program still have time to apply, said Perez, the case management coordinator.

“There’s still plenty of space available,” she said.


Information from: The Galveston County Daily News,

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