My third system Sheryl Melton lives in a different area of Houston and is not included in this article.
Houston's Historically Black Neighborhoods Are Struggling After The Storm
"When you think about it, it just hurts because this is so typical for our end of town."
Posted on September 3, 2017, at 6:01 a.m.
Nidhi PrakashBuzzFeed News Reporter
Houston, TexasMary Melton
HOUSTON — Mary Melton struggled to hold onto her walker as she waded through water that was chest-deep at times to escape from the flooding that rushed into her home in northeast Houston.
Melton, who uses a walker or a cane to get around, pushed her way through the water for a mile and a half before reaching relatively dry ground, and taking shelter at a friend’s house.
“I felt like, 'am I going to be able to do it?,'" the 59-year-old recalled. "But then I said, 'god, I’m going to have to be able to do it.'"
Nearly a week later, she returned to her home for the first time since leaving in the early hours of Sunday. Though the water has receded in this part of town, it’s left a visible trail of destruction.
The interior wall in Melton’s front room stood exposed, stripped bare because of water damage. Her floors were partly ripped up and what few belongings remained in the house were piled high on tables.
Nidhi Prakash for BuzzFeed News
“It makes me feel like just giving up. It’s just too much. Just let it go. Find another state and move. Just let it go,” she said, peering into her waterlogged home.
Like many Houstonians, Melton doesn’t have flood insurance. She survives off her disability payments and isn't sure if she can afford to make her home livable again. She's dealing with both the uncertainty over what will become of her house and the trauma of evacuating last week without much assistance.
“It makes me want to cry when I start to think about it because we saw no help,” Melton said. “To go out in my area, I thought I’d see somebody come to help me. When you think about it, it just hurts because this is so typical for our end of town. It’s just hard when you can’t do anything about it. When you own your property, you want to stay and hold on to what you have. We are always left out, unless it’s churches or local businesses.”
Pop. 10,842 — 69% black Median household income: $21,492
Trinity / Houston Gardens
Pop. 18,110 — 70% black Median household income: $25,409
Melton’s 37-year-old son-in-law, Travis Curtis, happened to be in town from Salt Lake City when Hurricane Harvey hit Houston. He’s been clearing out the house and stripping the walls, and plans to fix as much of his mother’s house as he can in the next week.
In Trinity Gardens, the predominantly black neighborhood where Melton lives, and in neighboring Kashmere Gardens, the extent of the storm’s damage varied greatly from block to block. But returning a week later, it was clear that most of Melton’s neighbors had lost the bulk of their possessions, and that many didn’t have insurance or a financial safety net to help repair their homes. The median income for Kashmere Gardens residents is $21,492 per year. In Trinity Gardens, it's $25,409.
Both neighborhoods are lined with modest, one-story homes. On Saturday in Trinity Gardens, piles of furniture and personal belongings were stacked on the curbs lining Melton’s street, giving off a strong, musty odor under the Houston sun. Some FEMA inspections have begun, but many are still waiting for an assessment of the cost of the damage and how much the government might help.
The city of Houston did not immediately respond to a request for comment on what services and resources it is providing to the neighborhoods in the wake of the storm.
Nidhi Prakash for BuzzFeed News
Next door to Mary Melton’s home, her sister Lydia Melton, 57, sat on her front porch with a dust mask lifted up to her forehead. Taking a break from the exhausting work of cleaning and gutting her house, she looked out at the mountain of furniture and clothes on the curb in front of her.
“I had that stuff for 25, 30 years and it hurt me so much to get rid of it,” Lydia Melton said. She didn’t have flood insurance either, and has no idea how much assistance from FEMA she might receive. Melton also survives off disability benefits, of about $1,900 per month.
- Diana Day-Glenn
- Irene O'Brien
- Greg Richards
#1 fundraising platform
More people start fundraisers on GoFundMe than on any other platform. Learn more
Expert advice, 24/7
Contact us with your questions and we’ll answer, day or night. Learn more