Recovery continues in Texas

Recovery workers in El Paso estimate that 300-400 families still have unmet needs.

BY HEATHER MOYER | EL PASO, Texas | January 26, 2007

Recovery workers in El Paso estimate that between 300 and 400 families still have unmet needs stemming from last August's severe flooding.

A recent needs assessment showed 75% of 149 families surveyed have some type of construction need. The initial survey was only a sampling and more assessments are being done everyday, according to the El Paso Long-Term Recovery Committee (EPLTRC).

"We're continuing to add to the number of those in need," said the Rev. Sandra Leifeste, chair of EPLTRC and pastor of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. "Many families are still living in damaged homes." She added that EPLTRC is are grateful to the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee for providing the initial needs assessment.

More than 15 inches of rain fell across the region from late July 2006 into August. El Paso, Vinton, Socorro and Canutillo all saw severe damage. Leifeste said residents called it a 500-year flood.

Mark Matthys, chair of the EPLTRC case management subcommittee, said the stress levels are increasing for the families still stuck in the damaged homes more than four months later.

"There's certainly a sense of frustration on the part of the families," said Matthys, who also serves as executive director of the American Red Cross - El Paso. "There are signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and certainly some elevated anxiety."

Matthys said the EPLTRC is fortunate to have eight counselors who have been going door to door in the targeted neighborhoods. The counselors assess needs and provide emotional and spiritual counseling if needed. "They also make referrals if additional follow-ups are necessary," he added.

Leifeste said the EPLTRC is need of more help in the form of additional case managers, funds and building materials. While there are many members of the committee already, she still regularly approaches other local churches and national denominations for assistance.

"We have a clearer picture now of what we need thanks to the needs assessment," she said.

Both Leifeste and Matthys were grateful to the city of El Paso for some helpful programs available to some families. "They've instituted some very generous programs to offer alternatives in the form of buy-outs for families that were the hardest hit in some of these neighborhoods," said Matthys.

For those having to remain in their homes, Matthys said the biggest construction needs involve wall, ceiling and roof damage. "There are still cases of lingering mold, without a doubt," he said. "It's a quandry of many cases that there's no one else for them to go to. So they're trying to make do and keep the mold at bay."

The EPLTRC is also seeking volunteers willing to do some work. Several work teams are already scheduled, but more are always welcome. "We definitely have plenty of work for them to do," said Matthys.

Both Leifeste and Matthys know the recovery will take some time and they hope residents will remain patient with the EPLTRC as they try to help everyone. "We've got a long hill to climb to raise all the money and get all the materials we need," said Matthys. "We want to see every family in a secure and sanitary home, and it's just to take a bit of time."

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