Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sabine Pass - After the Storm

I arrived in Houston to start trip number 5 for Habitat for Humanity, based in Beaumont Texas. (I find it hard to understand that Katrina/Rita occurred over two years ago and people/families are still living in trailers and the rebuilding is still going on)

When I was deplaning in Houston I saw a gate agent who caught my eye. After a closer look I realized that she worked for me and later I think I fired at Midway some 15 years ago. Though she gets around the airlines, I made no attempt to make contact.

Also, for the first time in almost 30 years of travelling, my second bag containing work shoes and tools did not arrive. Fortunately, it was sent to Beaumont later Sunday night.

After I checked into the hotel I took a ride to our new location, Sabine Pass.

Sabine is 35 miles southeast of Beaumont.
The ride took me through the refineries and the intracoastal waterway.
On the way back I thought the weather was changing, but noticed that a large field was burning. The growing season has ended and it they probably were clearing the the fields. The heat could be felt from the fire as I drove past the field.

I was disappointed to learn that my favorite evening stop, Rocky's, was closed. I stopped a few blocks away at Kings Pub. Miller Lite in a can and bug on the bar made me quickly decide that I will not return.

Monday October 29, 2007

This week I will be working with a church group of twelve, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a couple from Michigan, and until tomorrow, eight from Americorp. (Their assignment will end and they will be driving back to Denver)
We will be working on two homes that will be occupied by people who have always lived in Sabine. Margaret is in her early 70's is full blood Cherokee Indian, and Phylis, mid 30's, both lost there homes in Hurricane Rita.
Margaret's home did not have a mortgage and was on the lot she owns before it was totally destroyed. Her husband died just before Rita from West Nile Virus. Her adult children all live in the area and currently is living in a trailer on her property. She commented, that if not for the volunteers, people here would not have any hope.

(Margaret )

(FEMA TRAILER)(Margarets Future Home)

(Beneath the home)

Phyllis, was renting a home with her 3 children, twins 10 years old and son 17. The entire inside was also destroyed. She was able to purchase the land where her new home will be built and is currently living in a FEMA trailer in Sabine with her three children.

The homes will be similar size to those on Jenard street, but must be built on stilts 12 feet above sea level.

Our first day is always is a bit unorganized. We are waiting to some inspections on Margaret's home, so work on Monday was limited.
I went to dinner with Lois, the previous volunteer coordinator. We had a nice evening catching up since my last visit. She also introduced me to Poblano Grill nearby, that I really enjoyed.

Tuesday October 30,2007

We worked on Phyllis' house today putting up the side plywood. There is no power on the property, so the nailing is done the old fashioned way.

(Back/Phylis house)

Phyliss stopped by this afternoon to say "thanks" and to meet the group. She has lived in Sabine her whole life and wants to remain here. Phylis bought the property from an elderly couple that had their home destroyed and decided to move. The cost of the property was $1500.

(Phylis standing)

Any home that sustained damage by Rita, could be repaired if less than 50% was damaged. If more than 50%, then the house was destroyed and a new home could be built, but only on the stilts. Last year the team from Extreme Makeover built the fire house an school auditorium. (We were able to purchase a DVD copy of the show) The school has grades K-12 with about 250 total students. Because the school is new, many parents have their children sent from Port Arthur to attend.

(New School)

(New Firehouse)

She has been in the trailer for almost two years and is hoping that she will be in by Christmas.Lunch today was at Skeeters. A small building that you would never think to stop in and eat. The food is great and staffed by the local women.


I still wonder why people stay here in Sabine. It is a very small town and not really anything going on. Though it seems that most of the people have their whole family living there. It makes Mayberry seem like the big city.

Wednesday October 31, 2007

The women in our group were sent to Beaumont to complete indoor painting of another home. The guys were left to work in Sabine. Today we did hurricane clips, attic floor and misc carpentry. It was a nice opportunity to work the the crew from Cedar Rapids, all of whom are allot of fun to be around.

(Attic crawlspace floor)

When the day was finished, I made a visit to Miss Bea and her mother on Jenard Street. Both are doing well and the block is almost complete. One more home will be built in January. This will be an ALL Women build, which I understand they do once or twice a year.

There are 75 children occupying the Habitat homes on this block.

Thursday November 1, 2007

Today was wall wrapping, window installation and reinforcing walls for cabinets and bathroom fixtures. The weather has been great. Not one day of rain and temperatures in the 70's & low 80's. Unusually warm for this time of year in southeast Texas.

We are at the Holiday Inn in Beaumont, though I am sure we could have gotten a better rate here.

( Robert (Habitat Lead) & Brock from Iowa & me)

Friday November 2, 2007

The final day of work in Southeast Texas before I leave for home on Saturday.

Today we met at the Habitat warehouse in Beaumont. We loaded some supplies to prepare for the 10 day two house blitz build that will begin on Monday. The area is in Beaumont and run down. The low income housing/apartments located across the street are in the process of being demolished to make way for new housing. The buildings were evacuated after Rita.

(To be destroyed)

Here we installed base plates on one of the two homes and built pink saw horses for the blitz. This kept us busy until 11:30. After lunch the church group that we enjoyed working with this week, packed up and started their road trip back to Cedar Rapids.

(Base Plates)

(Lunch on our new horses)

The couple from Michigan and myself were then sent over to do some trim work on a home that is being built by local church volunteers. This home is a Saturday only build that the have been working on for about 10 weeks.

(Saturday Church build)

Once again I enjoyed meeting future homeowners and hearing their stories. It is also a pleasure to work and get to know other volunteers and hear what brought them here.

Each and every time I am here, I find that most of the future owners remain positive even though they lost all material items including their homes. They see the light at the end of the tunnel and are grateful to have survived.

It would be nice say "we're done". But unfortunately the progress is very slow with many hurdles and red tape. Many will wait even longer to get their lives and homes back to sense of normalcy.