When Hurricane Harvey struck Texas in 2017, our offices were shut down and employees were urged to evacuate and stay safe. As 60 inches of rainwater swept through streets of Houston, plumes of smoke had engulfed our main office downtown. The flooding had caused an electric explosion within the building, which quickly escalated into a fire.
Employees fretfully kept an eye out for updates as the rain thundered on outside, wondering if the same disaster resources they provided for clients would soon apply to them. Nevertheless, we persisted, working remotely and providing outreach for the community.
In the aftermath of the fire, the first floor of the three-story structure was completely destroyed and structural issues kept us from utilizing the remainder of the space. In response to the storm, the Houston branch relocated to temporary office spaces to keep our doors open and maximize efficiency during troubling times. In the months that followed, our employees and volunteers worked tirelessly to salvage files and facilitate the transition to the new workspace.
“Our tight knit firm was split up, all over Houston, it seemed. We were split between one leased space and five donated spaces. We had staff at Combined Arms; Vorys, Sater, Seymour, and Pease, LLC; Latham and Watkins, LLP; and Pilgrim Congressional United Church. We appreciate everyone who allowed us to work in their offices and continue our mission,” says Clarissa Ayala, Communications Director.
Our leaders found the silver lining in this unfortunate event by using it as an opportunity to redesign the space to optimize our ability to service applicants and clients in-house. We hired AMB Architects to revamp our Fannin office to give it more modern amenities while still “highlighting existing elements that survived the fire.”
“We had a dream team. They listened to us, got to know us as an organization, and took our needs into consideration,” says Sue Sere, Director of Planning and Special Counsel, the lead on the entire redesign project.
We even commissioned a mural by local artist, Gonzo247, who is well-known for his vibrant work around Houston. The mural, pictured below, shows Lady Liberty standing in front of a map of Texas that highlights our service areas. It appears on the Bell Street side of our 1415 Fannin office.
The building’s new look includes a welcoming waiting area for clients, sleek offices and conference rooms with glass walls for optimal transparency, and understated artwork that highlights the modernity of our firm as we broaden our vision and expand our reach. Though Lone Star Legal Aid offices continue to operate remotely, our new building has been ready and operating at minimum capacity since April 2021.
This summer, AMB Architects was honored with the 2021 Chrysalis Award for their tremendous work on our building. The Chrysalis Awards “recognizes the nation’s best remodeling and design work” and is open to all design professionals in the U.S. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to work with such innovative architects and designers to restore and upgrade our base of operations.
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 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, including 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 http://www.lonestarlegal.org.
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