Healing in Houston

Michael J. Nyenhuis
Feb 2, 2018 · 3 min read

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

Michael J. Nyenhuis, @americaresCEO, meets with Melinda and other survivors of Hurricane Harvey at The Residences on Emancipation in Houston, TX. Americares is supporting health cares services for the residents, who moved there after the George R Brown Convention Center closed.

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.

Michael J. Nyenhuis, @americaresCEO, meets with Cecil, a survivor of Hurricane Harvey at The Residences on Emancipation.

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.

Dr. Anne Peterson (Senior Vice President, Americares Global Programs ) and Michael J. Nyenhuis (@americaresCEO), Frances Isbell (CEO of Healthcare For the Homeless Houston) and Carlie Brown (Executive Vice President of Healthcare For the Homeless Houston).

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.

Michael J. Nyenhuis

Written by

@Americares President & CEO. We save lives and improve health for people affected by poverty or disaster in the U.S. and worldwide.