I toured the three devastated public housing developments in Galveston this week and what I saw sickened, depressed and angered me.
The condition of the public housing developments in Galveston, almost three months after the flooding is a classic example of government incompetency. In a community that is struggling to rebuild, the condition of these apartments is a huge billboard advertising the failure of HUD’s accountability and responsibility.
A temporary chain link fence has been erected around the apartments but it was broken down and standing open in places. Anyone can come and go at will through the large, devastated public housing developments.
Windows are broken and many doors were standing open. Personal belongings of the former residents are scattered across the grounds: clothes, chairs, sofas, books, tvs, all sorts of personal possessions. Each apartment I entered is growing mold and is filled with ruined furniture and personal items. The stench is appalling.
Privately owned housing, both single family and apartments surrounding the public housing was also devastated but there were signs of activity and, in many cases, people are trying to rebuild.
Looking at the contrast between the condition of these public housing developments and the private housing in the area shows everyone that HUD has failed to assume any responsibility for aiding the recovery efforts. HUD will claim that the maintenance of the condition of these public housing units is the responsibility of the local public housing authority. I agree that the Galveston Housing Authority does bear some responsibility here. But the local PHA appears simply overwhelmed.
The damage that these conditions do to the will of the surrounding community to rebuild is enormous, the danger these conditions pose to residents of the neighborhoods, especially children, is real.
None of this takes into account how this extreme neglect reinforces negative public perceptions about public housing.
Some responsible entity (HUD) needs to contract immediately to secure and clean up the devastated public housing of Galveston. This is national disgrace.
As a former Galveston resident, I have followed with great interest the unveiling stories of the demolished public housing in Galveston. I have been to the island no less than 8 times since IKE and have toured the housing development by car and peripherally by foot (outside the fence). I applaud the work of the Housing Authority in trying to implement a plan that will provide long-range solutions to the low-income housing problems in Galveston. Public forums and input from the residents of these developments are vital in developing a strategic plan which meets the current needs of residents. The most obvious wrong answer is to jump in and start rebuilding a system that was already broken. Offering residents options such as housing on-the-market and outside of the housing developments is a great first step. These developments are beyond their lifespan already and the most cost-effective position would be to demolish and rebuild. Certainly residents should have been allowed to come home and claim their belongings, but honestly, many are finding it easier to start over. Especially due to the water-damaged condition of any belongings. Harish and his staff want only the best for residents and we should be finding ways to support GHA instead of crying “foul.”
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