At Connective, we refuse to accept the current status quo in disaster recovery and the delivery of social services. We believe that human-centered design with a systems-wide, equity lens will bring us closer to imagining and building connected, empathetic, and accessible strategies to provide services to those who need them the most.
We envision a future in which the next crisis is not a disaster, one where our community can thrive and survive.
Flooding is nothing new to Betty and Deb. Sisters in their fifties living in Fort Bend County and Baytown respectively, they have the same vivid childhood memories as so many other Greater Houstonians: dealing with floods.
“I remember in 1983 during Hurricane Alicia, water came into our house. We manually took out the carpet and cleaned it with our hands, hung it outside, and then installed it back,” said Betty.
Deb added: “During another flood, my mom, me, my newborn, had to be evacuated out with a fire truck.” Deb exclaimed that being of Caribbean descent, they knew how to survive. “We think like engineers. It’s raining hard? OK, let’s get everything up high. Let’s put the furniture on bricks. Make sure to have a kerosene lamp. Let’s dig holes to build a makeshift moat around the house so water doesn’t get in.”
Despite their ingenuity, Harvey took a toll on them.
That house is still not habitable. Their mom lives with Deb, who purchased a house in the same neighborhood as the childhood home in Baytown. Betty lives an hour drive away. When asked how much flood zones factored into their decision-making in purchasing their new home, surprisingly, both Betty and Deb said “not at all.” Betty doesn’t entertain the possibility of another hurricane like Harvey, stating that she doesn’t think they “will be flooded again like that.” Deb disagreed and said she thinks they might flood like Harvey in the future. She added, “What can I do but pray that it doesn’t? I can’t live my day-to-day life thinking I am going to get flooded again.”
Betty and Deb’s experience is similar to that of hundreds of thousands of Greater Houston residents. It is also similar to the experience of our nonprofit sector and local government, who were still building back from Harvey’s devastation when Tropical Storm Imelda, COVID-19, the 2021 winter storm hit the region. Each year, all of us, residents and leaders alike, brace for natural disasters, knowing we’re not prepared. Like Deb, we hope and pray that the storm will miss us.
Like our peers, Connective has been in perpetual disaster mode. We are getting better at disaster response—but only incrementally. We are reacting to what is right ahead of us, rather than making radical changes or devising proactive strategies to mitigate the impact from future disasters. This reactionary strategy is not sustainable. We know that through our collective knowledge and experience hardened by disasters, we can do better.