September 20, 2019


Well, I woke up to a random story about how BakerRipley is a mean old for profit making a huge amount of money from running NRG. Nope.

First of all. We’re going to need everyone. Everyone. I’ve never seen a long term recovery commitment work that wasn’t a 3-legged stool.

  1. Government
  2. Nonprofit and faith community
  3. Corporate

We need leaders from all sectors. There is no such thing as a one sector recovery.

And BakerRipley (formerly Neighborhood Centers Inc.) is the same nonprofit Texans have been supporting for 110 years. We changed our name to honor our founders and the values they espoused.

We are proud to be working with dedicated Harris County staff, the staff of NRG Center and many corporate friends. Thank goodness for HEB. We would have had some pretty hungry people the first few days without them. I was never so glad to see Scott McClelland. And I’m always glad to see Scott.

Every organization — no matter what sector — working on recovery from now until we’re done will be reimbursed for some of what we are doing. Sort of. Some. Eventually.

We’re not much thinking about that right now. Whatever business we were in, we’re now all in the business of recovery. And it will take all of us if we want to get not only Houston but the entire Gulf Coast up and running again.

In the immediate aftermath of a storm everyone pulls together. It’s overwhelming and we can see that we can’t do it alone. So there’s this great spirit of cooperation. Then that shit gets hard. Really hard and we all get aggravated and frustrated. And we think someone else has it better. And we imagine what we could do with more resources. And we’re sure that we could do a better job if we were in charge of allocating all the resources.

We’re in the honeymoon period. We all love one another. We’re like the people holding the newborn in the hospital — tired but up for the challenge. Take another picture at 3:00am three weeks later. Those parents are looking at one another like “this is all your fault”.

No one has it better right now unless you’re the person whose home and/or business is not under water. Unless you’re the person who was insured for everything and you have a personal army of people to help you take care of all the paperwork and dirty work. Unless you are completely able bodied and financially independent — then you’re probably already trying to help other people.

We need to be moving into the intermediate stage of recovery. Where we will still need everyone. We will muck and gut and assess the damages and tally it up for region. Some neighborhoods will begin immediately — those that know the drill because sadly — they’ve been there before. They’ve got means and the muscle.

There are many neighborhoods full of homes and small businesses — places that were barely getting by before the storm. Disasters have a way of ripping the cover off unhealed wounds of the past. Revealing tender painful places we’re afraid to touch.

Our neighbors and neighborhoods are going to need help and help is coming. The faster it gets here, the cheaper it will be. There are reputable philanthropic organizations who’ve already deployed teams to come and help on the ground and we are turning our attention to how to deploy and supply more of these teams.

Even as agencies are organizing for this phase of recovery work. It’s hard to do isn’t it, when water is being released and we still have new mandatory evacuation orders coming down and collapsed roads and failing water supplies all around us. And people still arriving at shelters.

It would just be great if recovery was a project we chose. A nice linear project complete with purchase orders and “deliver bys” and tidy contracts. With a date by which we are once again, “normal”. It’s not like that. Regions recover in fits and starts. Fast and slow. Sometimes unbelievably slow. Because we have to decide what we want to fight to preserve and rebuild and what must be rethought. Some events are so big there is no “recovery”. We aren’t going back to what we had because we aren’t the same people and this isn’t the same world. New ideas are necessary.

The first ideas from people outside the region won’t be great ideas. Everything looks pretty simple from far away if you know nothing about the interconnected nature of everything on the Gulf Coast — with literally everything else in the country.

We will eventually be rethinking flood plains and refineries and environmental imperatives. How we build, where we build. How to do better. And who gets to decide.

Storms are cruel opportunities for all of that.

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