Hurricane Harvey evacuee thankful for Austin family this Thanksgiving

A lot of Texans will reflect on what they're thankful for this holiday, especially after Hurricane Harvey. Some people are back in their homes, others are still trying to find a little stability.

AUSTIN - Wednesday night Karan Shirk is busy preparing her Thanksgiving meal. 

"We're going to make some chocolate custard pie and caramel apple pie," she said while making dough for her pie crust.

This year her family will have a special guest. 

"For him, I'm specifically making squash," she said. "He's a farmer, so he grew up with lots of vegetables. He likes real fresh fruits and vegetables."

He is Jim Hackler. 

"I farmed for 30 years and I think I was a pretty good farmer," he said smiling. "I moved on to Rockport because Rockport had been my fishing hole for years."

Hackler called Rockport home for more than 40 years. Then, Hurricane Harvey came. 

"Rockport look liked a war zone," he said. "Nearly everything virtually was gone."

That includes Hackler's apartment and the houseboat he was restoring and planning to live in. 

"How did you end up coming to Austin," asked KVUE Journalist Ashley Goudeau. 

"FEMA," he replied. "They brought their bus there and picked us up."

The bus dropped him off at the Austin shelter.

"I was a Red Cross volunteer in the shelters," said Shirk. 

Shirk, a retired nurse, was introduced to Hackler at the shelter because staff asked her to transport him to a clinic for eye surgery. And Shirk was moved to continue helping Hackler. 

"He had nothing to go back to," she said. "He lives on a limited income, social security only, everything was gone, where was he going to go? What was going to happen? And so, I'm not sure I knew how big a chunk I was biting off at the time."

That's because Hackler is starting over at the age of 81 and he's partially blind. 

"I really don't know what I'd a done without that woman and her husband," he said. "With the government programs and all that stuff, she has done things that I would never know how to do."

In fact, Shirk is who has helped Hackler get FEMA aid to stay in the Springhill Suites after the city shelter closed.

"There's nothing to complain about as far as the place," Hackler said about the hotel, complementing the staff for helping him. "It's fantastic really."

But that aid is running out. Shirk, who also used to be a case worker, has been able to find some resources for Hackler, including medical care, but she says he needs more aid.

"Got him on food stamps but they gave him a big $15 a month of food stamps," Shirk said. 

Housing is another issue. Hackler's FEMA aid that is keeping him in the hotel will end at the end of the month, leaving him with nowhere to live. 

"Seems like every time you try to do something, it's just not there. I'm living in this hotel and I'm thankful for that, and Karan's been responsible for keeping me in it all this time through FEMA. And trying to find a place to live around here is so expensive," Hackler said. 

Shirk is hopeful help will come, and in the meantime both she and Hackler are just grateful to have one another this Thanksgiving

Shirk also set up a YouCaring page for Hackler, hoping people will donate to help get him back on his feet.

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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