Smithville begins recovery efforts following Hurricane Harvey

Smithville residents have started cleaning up after parts of the city were flooded.

Everyday is an opportunity for recovery at Serenity Star, a Smithville treatment group working with 65 people. 

"A general response would have been 'why?' But who it is that we are and who I am today is more of 'why not?'" explained Chad Kromer, a staff member who first came to the group more than two years ago. 

Hurricane Harvey damaged the property, forcing them to rip up carpet, patch up the roof, and fix the flooring.

"I think it's about showing people in recovery how we live through crisis," said Teri Lopez, who co-founded the facility with her wife in 2009. 

Members run Comfort Cafe Friday-Sunday, a popular restaurant right off Smithville's downtown stretch. Since the damage, they've been working non-stop to repair the restaurant to make sure it's ready to open friday. 

"To be able to stand side by side in community and work together for a common goal, really healing, really powerful," said Lopez. 

After walking through the restaurant, Lopez was moved by the progress. 

"I think we're all humbled by the fact that when we come together like this, the amount we can accomplish is amazing.  In the cafe we have (a sign that reads) 'Where Miracles Happen.'  Because we see that everyday. And we know that some people are leaving, others are going to be coming. So it's not only for everyone here, but for the next addict," said Lopez.

"I'm feeling it right now as I'm talking to you," said Kromer, who also serves as a chef at the restaurant.  "Immense gratitude. Immense gratitude for being inside of such a sacred and safe place.  It's not just about serving food, it's about the symbiotic relationship between family and community inside Serenity Star, and communing with the family and community that walk through those doors everyday." 

Repairs to the home of Gina Stevenson - the organization's Family Director - will take a bit longer. 

"I had five feet, five feet five inches of water in it," Stevenson explained. 

This is the fourth time her home has been flooded, though she said this time has been the worst. 

"What we learn in recovery is to live life on life's terms, and always look for the solutions of things," explained Stevenson, who is staying with a fellow staff member until her home is repaired.  

At a nearby property, Nenita Carrasquilla was renting her home to a Serenity Star graduate. But those plans have changed, after the house received several feet of water inside, despite being on 12-foot high stilts.

"It's trashed.  It's going to cost a lot," Carrasquilla said, as she stood outside the home. 

The house is near the Colorado River, but had never flooded before. While Carrasquilla has a place of her own to stay - she's concerned about her renters, who are friends of hers. 

"They pretty much lost everything... and it's frustrating for me because I got, I got to provide them with livable housing," Carrasquilla said. 

Carrasquilla has flood insurance through FEMA, but has already fronted money to immediately begin the recovery process. 

"There's the financial burden and the stress of not knowing if I'm going to be reimbursed because really, somebody comes in and looks and estimates the damage and how much you're insurance will pay.  I have to just follow these guys around and take pictures and try to document everything in hopes of getting the reimbursement," said Carrasquilla. 

The Smithville Recreation Center has been open since Friday for evacuees in need of shelter.  A staff member told KVUE they had 90 people stay there at one point. . As of Thursday afternoon, there were nine remaining evacuees staying there.  Staff is working with local agencies to try and find temporary housing for those still in need. 

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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