Ms. Ora Morrow met Lone Star Legal Aid attorney Amanda Bosley at the George R. Brown Disaster Recovery Center shortly after Hurricane Harvey made landfall off the Texas coast on August 25, 2017. The GRB was Harris County’s first DRC and also operated as a shelter for hundreds of people who lost their homes as a result of the storm’s flooding rain. Ms. Morrow is 77 years old and has lived in her home for almost 50 years.
Although Ms. Morrow’s house did not flood during the storm, the water did rise to the point where it flooded her vehicle that was parked in the driveway. When she met Attorney Bosley at the DRC, she had already applied to FEMA for transportation assistance but had not yet received a decision from them. Attorney Bosley followed up with her a few weeks later and Ms. Morrow said that she had received a nominal amount from FEMA for her lost vehicle, but it was not nearly enough to fix her car or even to put a down payment on for a new one. Attorney Bosley provided Ms. Morrow with advice on how to draft a FEMA appeal letter and what documents to send them. Ms. Morrow took the appeal letter and documents to the DRC to present to FEMA. Ms. Morrow said that the FEMA representatives she spoke to refused to review her documents and sent her on her way. When Ms. Morrow called and told Attorney Bosley, she agreed to make a visit to her home. Attorney Bosley took with her a FEMA appeal letter that she went over with Ms. Morrow along with the supporting documents needed so that she could send them off on her behalf.
Ms. Morrow says that she feels as though her independence has been taken from her. She has to call upon her daughter and nieces to take her to run simple errands; to the grocery store and the bank. Although they are happy to do it, they know that she is struggling with having to call them for help. Attorney Bosley hoped that FEMA would offer Ms. Morrow more in transportation assistance so that she can get herself back into a vehicle and regain her sense of independence.
On December 5, 2017, Attorney Bosley called to follow up on Ms. Morrow’s appeal. She was informed that Ms. Morrow was being awarded additional funds that will allow her to repair her vehicle. She was also informed that should Ms. Morrow face mechanical difficulties in the future with this same vehicle, she is to send a new estimate marked “Flooded – Water Damage Due to Disaster Harvey,” they will pay for that too.
There are many post-disaster stories like Ms. Morrow’s. When disasters strike, survivors think of finding shelter and food for their families. They think of replacing things they lost and repairing their homes or cars. Attorneys can assist when survivors are confused or when they are not being given the proper benefit they are entitled to by either federal assistance or through their insurance policies. Lone Star Legal Aid’s disaster recovery team has already picked up hundreds of cases related to Hurricane Harvey and will continue to do so.