Hurricane Harvey was the first time Jeremy Walter, of Baker Botts, was exposed to the devastation of a storm of its scale. “Reading about Hurricane Ike in 2008 was not remotely comparable to experiencing Harvey,” he says. Following the storm and partnering with Baker Botts at local shelters, LSLA spearheaded a large scale pro bono effort to identify and assist survivors. Baker Botts hosted the single largest LegalLine hotline for those in need of legal advice or assistance. Shortly after the initial chaos, and through LSLA’s Hurricane Harvey Pro Bono Project, Walter signed up to assist a survivor with the appeal of a FEMA decision.
Walter assisted Romeo Santos, whose home endured heavy damage and was developing a mold problem. As his home was unsafe to occupy, Mr. Santos began staying with relatives that were in a position to take him in. Mr. Santos had already applied for FEMA aid when Walter agreed to assist him, but his application was denied. Despite the damage to his home and the growing mold within, Mr. Santos was told his home was still habitable and he was not entitled to emergency relief. Walter and his colleague Ashley Garvey began assessing FEMA’s denial letter and focusing their efforts on providing evidence related to the reason FEMA denied relief. In this case, that meant proving that Mr. Santos’ home was in fact not habitable and that living there would pose serious risk to his health. They took photos of the damage and mold, acquired multiple repair estimates, and drafted a letter to FEMA outlining the severity of the situation. Because of Walter and Garvey’s tireless advocacy, FEMA awarded Mr. Santos $20,000 in relief via the Texas Preps program. Through Texas Preps, local contractors were to work on Mr. Santos home as soon as possible. Relentless in their representation, Walter and Garvey remained on the case until the completion of Mr. Santos’ repairs.
Walter says that if he had any one piece of advice to give a survivor, he would say “be persistent.”
Jeremy Walter Ashely Garvey
Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves the millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, like those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at www.lonestarlegal.org.
Media contact: Clarissa Ayala