As waters began to recede and disaster shelters began to close and consolidate, those who had been displaced by the storm began to wonder where they would go to next. The answer for many of those households was the Housing For Harvey program. Families enrolled in Housing For Harvey would receive rental assistance for six months as well as case management support to help them transition either to self-sufficiency or another, longer-term rental assistance program.

On September 7, the call went out to area property managers from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and the Houston Apartment Association, asking for any available units that might be earmarked for people still residing in disaster recovery shelters. In just a few days, more than 100 properties had offered up available units, and by the end of October, Housing For Harvey had secured more than 700 units for the program – an incredible feat in an increasingly tight rental market.

The first step for landlords was to attend a briefing where they could learn more about the program requirements and the process of dedicating units. Because many displaced families had lost employment in the aftermath of the storm, landlords were asked to offer an all-bills-paid rental rate and to waive income requirements.

One of the many, daily lists of people and families approved for the Housing For Harvey Program.

As units began to come in, partners of The Way Home began to assess individuals and families at disaster shelters. These assessments were used so families with minor children could be prioritized for housing, and to determine whether some individuals were able to live independently. Once the program was up and running, families were enrolled in the Housing For Harvey program, picked their apartment unit from a map of available properties, and then submitted their application for the unit. Landlords were incredibly understanding of the urgency, and were typically able to process applications and background checks in the same day.

Once a household was approved for the unit, the move-out process could begin! Families would begin to gather their personal belongings and begin the Red Cross’ exit interview process, making sure they received information about any and all assistance they may have been eligible for. When households were ready to physically leave the shelter, AmeriCorps volunteers arranged for transportation – typically with Lyft or Uber – and then they signed in, received their keys, and moved into their units.

Every time a household moved out of disaster shelter, an order was placed so furniture, a Welcome Basket full of home goods, and a pantry box from the Houston Food Bank could be delivered to the family within 24 hours. Exclusive Furniture was an incredible partner in this part of the move-out/move-in process and ensured that items were delivered within the time frame.

By the time the last disaster recovery shelter closed on October 27, 2017, more than 350 people had moved into their own apartment unit through the Housing For Harvey program. After that would come the intensive case management and continued recovery.

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Piles of move-in slips from the shelter represent the 900+ people who left the disaster shelters through the Housing For Harvey Program.