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After Harvey: Caring for the Survivors

Harvey left our city late August, but the effects of Harvey live on. Houston was hit hard, and thousands are trying to adapt to a new normal. Those of us not affected by the storm’s wrath want to help. Shelters are still in place and clean up has become a daily routine. Many Houstonians took survivors of the storm into their home, and many are considering opening their home to welcome survivors in.

For the most part we want to help, a gesture that is generous and heartwarming, but it’s important to be prepared to host families. Many survivors are suffering emotional pain with the loss of their home, cars, and belongings. If you are planning to take someone in or have a family you’re caring for, it’s important to remember the following:

  • The storm isn’t over for the survivors. Many will suffer symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which will worsen with the shorter days and longer nights.

  • Embracing the whole family is important, which includes pets or sentimental belongings. If the family has lost a pet, remember they’re grieving that loss the same as losing a family member.

  • They’ll need your presence more than entertainment or cheering up. Be willing to sit with them and listen instead of giving them advice.

  • If you take a survivor it’s about them, not you. Stress brings out the worst in people. If you’re looking for a friend to take away your loneliness, adopting a storm survivor is not for you.

Love is a verb, and caring for a family is a genuine act of love. Your part in reaching out and embracing someone who has lost everything will be a cherished and important memory in their story. Remember that there are many ways to help if you aren’t prepared to take in a survivor into your home. Do what you can and remember that a little bit of kindness goes a long way in someone’s effort to heal. -Mary Jo Rapini


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