No amount of flood damage can ever convince Joe Murphy that his home on Lufkin Street, located in the Harvey-ravaged northeast Houston community of Kashmere Gardens, isn’t where he needs to be.
“We are just like family in this neighborhood and we pull together when we all need help,” Murphy said.So, when his home of the past 25 years was overcome with waist-high water from Hurricane Harvey, the 64-year-old said he was devastated.
“When Tropical Storm Allison came through here in 2001 it wasn’t as bad as Harvey,” Murphy said. “This time around, I lost everything. It was a nightmare. I thought stuff like that only happened on TV. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.”
Murphy, like so many other Houstonians, decided to wait out Harvey just as he did for Allison, but the slow movement of Harvey and constant rains caused major widespread flooding. After witnessing his couch and belongings float due to rising water within his home, Murphy knew it was time to leave. At 6’8” and despite walking with a limp due to a disability, Murphy sprang into action and crossed flood waters to help get neighbors to higher ground. Murphy would eventually find shelter at a nearby school before spending days in the George R. Brown Convention Center with thousands of others whose homes were flooded.
Now, more than a year after Harvey hit Houston, restoration for Murphy’s beloved home is in sight after facing a few obstacles.“When my parents were living in this house and Allison came through, FEMA helped them. But, when Harvey happened and I tried to get the government assistance, they turned me down because I didn’t have flood insurance,” Murphy said. “I didn’t know anything about flood insurance because I didn’t think something as bad as Harvey was going to happen.”Murphy lived in his flood-damaged home for four months. In the midst of his setbacks, he finally received good news during an unexpected phone call.
“I was looking at this church program and I said, ‘Lord, please send me some help.’ Then my phone rang and it was somebody from Catholic Charities.” Catholic Charities Houston helped place Murphy in a temporary southwest Houston apartment while his home is being renovated. The charity connected him with SBP AmeriCorps, a national disaster relief organization that has been rebuilding northeast Houston homes with the greatest need since August 2017.In December 2018, Memorial Hermann built upon its pledge to give back to the countless individuals across the region still in need of assistance following the devastation of Harvey.
Through a volunteer initiative called Hometown Healing, nearly three dozen Memorial Hermann employees teamed up with SBP AmeriCorps to sand walls, install window casing and restore windows in Murphy’s home.
AmeriCorps employees work six days a week to restore Houston homes and always welcome new volunteers, who they say have been instrumental in helping get Houstonians such as Murphy back on their feet.Murphy visited his home on the day Memorial Hermann volunteers were present; it was his first time seeing the progress in several weeks. It was during that time he learned restoration would likely be complete by the New Year.
“I’m glad Memorial Hermann came and I’m appreciative of any help I can get on my home,” he said. “I thank God for the people who are helping me with my house, because if it wasn’t for them, I don’t know where I’d be.”