Healing in Houston

  • February 02, 2018
  • Emergency Programs, Hurricane, Hurricane Harvey, Michael's Blog, United States
Michael J. Nyenhuis

Michael J. Nyenhuis

Americares President and CEO Michael J. Nyenhuis leads a health-focused relief and development organization that saves lives and improves health for people affected by poverty or disaster.

It is a long road. And I am not talking about the expansive freeways crisscrossing the city of Houston, where I am this week.

The longer road is the one far too many people here still travel: the road to recovery. Almost six months have passed since Hurricane Harvey clobbered the greater Houston area, but the number of people on that recovery road is huge. An estimated 33,000 people remain displaced and in temporary federal emergency housing, and many more are living upended lives.

Some survivors are in homes that need significant repair. Others are working to reopen their businesses. More than 200,000 homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed, and 80 percent of those affected by Hurricane Harvey did not have flood insurance. Many are waiting for funds from FEMA and other agencies. And others are still shaken by the trauma of their Harvey experience.

Frankly, the work remaining feels daunting, and it is difficult to see where it ends.

What has captured my attention here in Houston, however, is not the broader road to recovery but the individual pathways people are finding. This is not one big story but many. The Americares hurricane recovery team here told me the story of a health care worker they trained to help people traumatized by the storm. The next day, the health worker encountered a woman who needed that very kind of support. She helped the survivor through a difficult moment, then connected her to further counseling and a path to emotional recovery.

I met a woman named Melinda who, after a family crisis, found herself homeless in Houston. When the storm hit she sought safety in a hurricane shelter and found access to health care from an Americares partner. In the shelter she met a man who had also fled the storm. They fell in love. They are planning a life together and now have a path to a permanent home.

Here is a truth I am seeing: The pathway to recovery does not always take you back to where you were—not only in terms of location, but also emotionally, socially and spiritually. For many there is no returning to before. Too much has happened. Too much has passed. Instead, the pathway is to a new place. My hope and prayer for the people I am meeting is that in their new place, they find healing, hope and joy.

Stay Engaged in Improving Health

  • First Name Required

  • Last Name Required