El Paso, Texas: 2006 flood recovery continues

July 8, 2009

In August 2006, torrential rains flooded Southern Texas. Particularly hard hit was teh colonias (an extremely low income area) in the El Paso area. The United Church of Christ sent $5,000 to Church World Service to assist with immediate relief needs of blankets and personal care kits. In January 2009, El Paso Long Term Recovery Committee received from the UCC a grant of $3,000 to continue repairing homes that were damaged. The funds sent to CWS and the El Paso Long Term Recovery Committee were from the One Great Hour of Sharing special fund, Emergency USA. Earlier this year, repairs were completed on three homes. Here are the stories of these three families...

Maria and Jorge live in a mobile home in the upper valley community of Vinton, Texas.  Two children, ages 9 and 16, live with them at home.  Maria recently started working at a local restaurant and Jorge does odd jobs but does not have steady employment.  They use Food Stamps to help make ends meet.

In August 2006, torrential rains and poor drainage caused flooding in the trailer park where they live.  Although everyone was affected, the Marquez family was especially hard-hit because the siding on their mobile home was made of wood, while the siding on other families' homes was made of metal.  Water thus seeped into the walls of their home, causing the wood to warp and peel away in places (see pictures).  The problem was made worse by roof leaks.

The family did not receive help from FEMA.  From 2006 until early 2008 the Marquez family lived with the consequences of severe storms and flooding.  Parts of the wall deteriorated to the point that the house was almost stripped of protection from the elements, making it more difficult to heat and cool.  Mr. Marquez tacked wood onto the side of his home to help insulate the walls but he lacked the funds to make substantial repairs.

For this project, the LTRC provided funding to buy materials but Mr. Marquez did most of the work himself.  He is very proud of the result.  Mr. Marquez states that, because of its damaged walls, his house was the least attractive in the neighborhood but it is now one of the nicest.  He thanks the United Church of Christ for the assistance provided.

Photos of Trailer Damage  Photos of same trailer after repairs





Tom and Maria are retired and live with Maria's parents, Jose (97) and Andrea (82).  Social security payments are their only income.  Tom has poor eyesight, a heart condition, and narcolepsy, which affects his balance.

Tom recalls being at home on the day in August 2006 when water came rushing down from a cemetery behind their home as a result of hours of rain.  They tried putting blankets on the floor to stop the water but it came pouring through their house "like the river" inundating the kitchen and several other rooms.  In 25 years that they have lived at this house in Canutillo, Texas, this was the worst storm they had seen.

FEMA provided them with some funds that they used to take out the drenched carpet, fix the floors and replace some furniture that was ruined in the flood.  But it did not cover repairs to the roof, which was also damaged in the storm, and their social security income was inadequate to cover all of their needs.  Tom's brother Beto painted the house and put down tile, but he could not fix the roof. The Olivares' tried patching the roof with tar and placing bricks on the roof to keep the shingles in place.  However the roof leaks continued and mold began to develop in the parts of the ceiling located below the leaks.

The first time he was contacted by the LTRC, Tom thought it was a scam.  He was surprised when the LTRC hired a roofer to fix the damage.  He says that, in Canutillo, "a lot of people don't have the financial resources to do these kinds of repairs.  We depend on each other to help, but there's a limit to how much you can do."  He is very grateful that the United Church of Christ provided the additional resources that the family needed to make essential repairs.


Roof damage caused by
the rains August 2006 

Same roof after repairs 




Maria and Salvador have custody of four grandchildren.  They lkive in the colonia of Westway.  Salvador lost his job late last year and Maria is working in a store.  The family receives Food Stamps.

Ms. Vega's house was flooded in 2006 with about three inches of water.  Maria slipped and fell while trying to empty water from the house using buckets.  The experience was quite traumatic for the family.

As time passed, the linoleum floor cover in the back of the house began to come up.  With funds received from FEMA the family was able to replace the larger part of the roof.  Because the money wasn't sufficient to replace the whole roof, the family stretched plastic tarps over the unfinished portion in an effort to prevent further leaks.

A neighbor named Raymundo Perez was willing to finish the roofing work at a very low cost, but the family did not have the means to pay him.  The LTRC paid Mr. Perez to do the work.  Ms. Vega says that he did a good job (she tested the roof with a water hose) and she extendsher sincere thanks to the United Church of Christ for helping fund the project.

Photos of damage

Same areas after repairs completed








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