On August 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey hit Texas.
Over four days, 1 trillion gallons of water fell across Harris County, enough to cover the entire county with an average of 33 inches of water. The sheer weight of the water depressed the Earth’s crust: Houston sank two centimeters.
We quickly learned that our physical infrastructure was inadequate.
All the bayous in Harris County flooded. 600,000+ cars and 120,000+ homes, not counting commercial buildings and apartments, flooded. Thousands of families were displaced across the county. With the havoc caused by Harvey, there was an enormous need for assistance as soon as possible.
We also learned that our social services infrastructure was inadequate.
In response to the devastation and the need, millions of philanthropic funds flowed in. Leaders in Houston, Harris County Judge Emmett and Houston Mayor Turner set up their own relief fund, the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund (HHRF), which was managed by the Greater Houston Community Foundation and raised $114M. The Fund’s focus was unmet needs in vulnerable populations.
Despite the millions flowing in to help the people of our city get back on their feet, many people seeking assistance were unable to access services and falling through the cracks.
We heard from Houstonians seeking assistance after Harvey:
“I don’t know where to turn to receive help. When I call service providers, I get busy signals. I’ve been told that it will be months before I receive help because of waiting lists for services. I’ve wasted time filling out lengthy applications just to be told I’m ineligible for their services.”
The HHRF team decided to step back and understand what was going on.
The team wanted to uncover the unmet needs of the most vulnerable. We did so through looking at the available data and listening to people seeking services. In December 2017, we convened 40 nonprofits in different neighborhoods to listen to their perspective.
We need to radically improve the social services infrastructure. Harvey Home Connect was born as a pilot in our endeavor to improve the social services infrastructure.
To deploy fast and more intently, we decided to focus on home repairs at first. We launched in June 2018, accepting our first application on June 1, 2018 and completing repairs on our first home by July 25, 2018.
We built HHC hand-in-hand with our partner nonprofits, taking the burden of documentation collection and verification off of their plates. And seekers of services need to go to just one place: HarveyHomeConnect.org. Once they are at HarveyHomeConnect.org, we get them through the door of home repair social services ecosystem and track them through their journey.
Built for Humans
We started by listening to seekers and convening local non-profits. Today, we are improving through engaging with the community. And we are constantly asking “how can we make this more accessible to our most vulnerable clients?” This ensures an easy to understand navigation experience for all our clients.
Treat Customer Like We Treat Loved Ones
We value, prioritize and measure customer service. We calculate a Net Promoter Score (NPS) that tell us how our clients are viewing our services and programs. NPS is a proven metric used in the business world to measure customer experience and predict growth.
Have a Bird’s-Eye View of the System
We bring together various home repair agencies. This gives us a picture of the overall system, allowing us to see bottlenecks and solve problems at the systems-level rather than at an agency level. And we strive to make this systems-level data available to our clients and partners.
As the Director of Harvey Home Connect, I lead our partnerships and external relationships.
My vision: I envision a more resilient Texas Gulf Coast, in which people affected by disasters have control over their recovery.
Why I care about HHC: After Hurricane Harvey, I went door to door to help fellow Houstonians in need. I saw homes and communities that had been disinvested in for decades before facing a major disaster. These neighbors’ stories have stuck with me and continue to motivate me today.
Prior experiences I bring: Consultant for the Greater Houston Community Foundation, Director of Client Renewals and Manager of Strategic Programs at Social Solutions, Management Consultant at the Boston Consulting Group
I manage the Harvey Home Connect team and our day-to-day operations.
My vision: I want to see a Houston that tackles flooding not only with better physical infrastructure but also with a stronger network of social services that leverage technology to work together for clients.
Why I care about HHC: Having worked in tech and with vulnerable populations, there’s so much potential for technology to help people get back into their homes after a disaster.
Prior experiences I bring: Consultant for the Greater Houston Community Foundation, Director of Partnerships and Director of Operations at Codeup, a coding school in San Antonio, Research Analyst at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy
We help Houstonians navigate the complex world of disaster recovery resources and services.
Why your Guides care about HHC: Your Guides are Houstonians. Several of us were born in Houston. One of us is a New Orleanians who embraced Houston as home after Hurricane Katrina. We are moved by the need in the city we call home and are ready to roll up our sleeves to help our neighbors.
Prior experiences your Guides bring: We have a wide variety of experiences, ranging from social work to social science research, from criminal justice to immigrant studies. While we come from different backgrounds, the one thing we have in common is our dedication to our community in Houston.