Today, it wasn’t Republicans vs. Democrats. It was humans helping humans. And how refreshing it was!
86-Year Old, Mobility-Challenged Woman Gets New Home, New Life
Texas General Land Office (GLO) Commissioner Dawn Buckingham and her staff gathered to turn over the keys to the newly rebuilt home of Earnestine Henry. Ms. Henry is an 86-year old African-American great grandmother who relies on a wheelchair and walker to get around. Hurricane Harvey displaced her from the 79-year old home she owned for 50 years.
Neighbors, friends and family – the entire street – all joined in the festivities. It was the 1000th such home that the GLO built in Houston and Harris County in the last two years.
When Commissioner Buckingham gave Ms. Henry a bouquet of flowers as a housewarming gift, Ms. Henry began to cry tears of joy.
Then, the deeply religious Henry threw up her arm and went silent for a second.
Finally, she shouted “Thank you, Lord.”
She was so overcome with emotion that Commissioner Buckingham reached out to steady her in case she started to fall.
The room went silent as she sobbed and dried her tears. Everyone else dried theirs, too, including seasoned journalists. Yes, even I sniffled.
Then Ms. Henry flashed a beatific smile. The gracious and grateful octogenarian then took her guests on a tour of her new home as she thanked all the GLO staff in attendance.
Here’s what the home looked like before the rebuild.
And here’s what it looked like today, including the handicapped ramp. All homes built through the GLO’s Homeowner Assistance plan meet the needs of the residents with mobility challenges. Not only is the homeowner’s investment protected, their safety is as well.
Ms. Henry had originally applied to the City of Houston for help after Harvey, but reportedly never heard back. Her daughter and granddaughter helped her reapply to the GLO when the GLO took over the program in 2021.
JW Turner Construction built the new home, which is fully code compliant and energy efficient. The rebuild happened as part of the GLO’s Homeowner Assistance Program (HAP).
Property Values Increase, but Not Taxes
On average, homes rebuilt through the Homeowner Assistance Program increase the value of the property by more than $85,765. To address concerns about increased property taxes, in 2019 the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 812 to protect homeowners from drastic increases after the GLO reconstructs homes.
The GLO’s Homeowner Assistance Program reaches the hardest hit, low- and moderate-income, vulnerable families and individuals.
1000th Rebuild Part of a Continuing Effort
Of all approved applicants, nearly 90 percent identify as Black or Hispanic. 89 percent are considered low-to-moderate income. And 63 percent make less than 30 percent of the area median income.
The GLO currently has another 1000 homes under construction in the Houston area.
“No other state or territory has performed like Texas in the recovery from Harvey,” said Buckingham. “A large part of that credit goes to the GLO. In two years, GLO has rebuilt 18 times as many homes as Houston and Harris County combined.”
“Texas stands to lose billions of available federal disaster recovery dollars if we do not use them before they expire in August 2026,” she added.
“Programs administered by the GLO in assisting the poorest Texans have significantly outperformed the federal requirement,” said Buckingham. 80% of GLO disaster recovery funds help those most in need, even though the US Department of Housing and Urban Development only requires 70%.
Thank you, Lord, for people like Ms. Henry and all the others above. They remind us that we’re all in this together.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/16/2023
2025 Days since Hurricane Harvey