For One Family in Houston, an Overwhelming Start to Recovery

HOUSTON — She couldn’t sleep. Not now.

Kris Ford-Amofa lay next to her husband in a spare bedroom at her sister’s house, thinking once more about the brown water that had slithered under the front door of the first home she had ever owned. The water that swirled around her three children as the family fled, wading up City Green Trail to seek refuge at a neighbor’s house. The water that had buckled their living room floor, rotted the drywall and made them homeless. The floodwater that was not covered by their insurance.

Where did she even start? On Thursday, she got up early, set two phones on the kitchen table — one for Federal Emergency Management Agency, and one to call Enterprise about a rental car — and started dialing, launching into her third day on the job as a disaster-recovery coordinator for her upended family.

With no preparation and few road maps to guide them, tens of thousands of hurricane survivors like the Amofas are now stumbling through their first bewildering days after Harvey. The rains may have passed, but now they are consumed with worry about their children’s futures, precarious family finances and what remains of the homes they fled.

They need to find their way out of shelters and relatives’ extra bedrooms. Find new schools for their children. Find hotel rooms when everything is booked, find rental cars when everything is taken and find the time to gut their homes, call contractors and hack through layers of bureaucracy, all while bills pile up and bosses call them back to work.

An hour and a half into her morning, Kris, 43, was nowhere. Growing up in rural Louisiana, she knew and tropical storms. She had fled Hurricane Rita in 2005. Still, she was not equipped for this.

She had filed a claim with FEMA, but was told she needed to send a declaration and release form. She didn’t have her laptop, and she couldn’t find the right paperwork with her phone.

“Where do I find the form?” she asked. “I see the name of the form. There wasn’t a link.”

A pause.

“I need to speak to someone. I hit option three to speak to someone.”

She listened for a minute, head in hand.

“This is not the help line?”



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