Tenants protest ‘delporable’ living conditions after Harvey

Harvey mold

Some tenants in the Braes Timbers neighborhood say their complex isn’t cleaning their flooded apartments, or letting them move.

“This is a serious bacteria. The black mold can get into your lungs and it can kill you. It’s really serious. We have little kids, some even so little, they need to be carried; babies. If they would give us a letter that would let us out of our lease, and says we are leaving the property because of Hurricane Harvey, then we would be able to take our children and our families to a safe place to live that is out of the black mold,” said Jose Berrios, a St. James Place Apartments resident.

Many of the residents of the apartment complex, with the help of Texas Organizing Project, held a press conference Saturday with a number of demands for management, who they say, have left them no choice.

The residents allege they’re being told they can’t break their leases without violating their agreement.

This has left many families falling on a double edged sword: stay in the apartments as the black mold spreads, or move; stop paying rent, and risk affecting their credit scores.

While City Councilman Michael Kubosh was speaking in support of the tenants, St. James Place owner John Quinlan approached.

“Are you telling me that if these folks who can’t get back in their apartments, because some of them, I’ve been in them, are devastated. If they were to leave, would you hurt their credit,” asked Kubosh.

“Absolutely not. Anybody who needs to leave as a result of the storm, they would be free to leave, they would not be showing as breaking their lease,” answered Quinlan.

“Will you give them a letter to that effect?” rebutted Kubosh.

“I will give them a letter to that effect. Absolutely,” the owner said finally.

As KHOU left the apartment complex, there was a line of people waiting to get their letters so they can leave, and others being assigned apartments on the second floor, or at other properties. Texas Organizing Project says they believe the only reason management complied, is because cameras were rolling, and want to see if St. James really comes through.

This story originally appeared 9/10/2017 on KHOU.

Our Response to Hurricane Harvey

Harvey canvass

TOP Ed Fund logo

The floodwater from Hurricane Harvey was waist deep at the church where our organizer Anita Scott and nearly 300 other people had escaped to after being flooded out of their homes. They knew they couldn’t stay there much longer. The roof was caving in, people needed medical attention and the water was rising.

I’m so proud of Anita who for two days persisted, useAnitad every resource, asked everyone she knew for help until she had boats and helicopters sent in to rescue everyone.

And true to her nature of always doing for others, Anita didn’t get on a rescue boat until 2 a.m. Tuesday, after everyone elsehad been evacuated.

Inspiring stories like this one happened thousands of times over this past week in Houston. In this time of great and desperate need, people have given so generously to their neighbors to help them be safe, fed, clothed and housed.

Before the rain had stopped, the members and staff at TOP were already busy checking on each other’s welfare, and delivering help when needed.

We’re still doing that, calling our members, assessing their needs and providing emergency items, whether it’s a toothbrush, a tarp or helping them find emergency shelter. We’re also visiting shelters and pitching in to help clean up the damage caused by the storm.

If you or someone you know needs help, please let us know. We want to help wherever we can. You can reach us at (832) 582-0061. If we can’t help you directly, we will help connect you to the right resources.

Harvey TOP reliefWe also know that there are many of you who want to help. As we reach our members and visit shelters, we are compiling a list of needs and will share it with you early next week. In the meantime, if you would like to volunteer with us, please sign up here so we can contact you.

And beyond meeting people’s immediate needs, we’re also starting to plan a longer-term strategy for supporting people as they work to replace what’s been lost and rebuild their lives. We know from experience that what a hurricane washes away in a few hours can take years to rebuild, and we want to be there for our communities to ensure that their needs are not ignored.

To help do the immediate, short, and long term work of ensuring a full recovery for low-income and communities of color, we’ve partnered with other Houston-area organizations to launch a fund, and we’ve been very fortunate to have national allies who know and trust our work, promoting this fund to their networks. If you’d like to donate to the Harvey Community Relief Fund, click here.

By coming together and relying on each other, we will get through this. As the t-shirts we wore at our last leadership academy read: We will rise!

In solidarity,
Michelle Tremillo
Executive Director
Texas Organizing Project Education Fund

TOP Ed Fund Statement on Harvey Community Relief Fund

Harvey downtown

The following is a statement by Michelle Tremillo, executive director of the Texas Organizing Project Education Fund, in response to inquiries about the Harvey Community Relief Fund:

“We want to be clear on a key point about the Harvey Community Relief Fund, which is being housed within the Texas Organizing Project Education Fund: We have an ironclad commitment that 100 percent of the money raised into this fund will be spent directly on ensuring low income and people of color are not forgotten in the relief, recovery and reconstruction efforts. Not a dime will be spent on any other purpose.

“We and our allies intend to make sure that our communities are at the forefront of the recovery process, and that they get the resources they need to rebuild their lives. We will make a determination about which relief efforts in particular to dedicate this funding after the floods recede. Our expenditures will be dictated by the needs of our communities, and we anticipate those needs will range from personal hygiene items to legal aid and advocacy.

“One year after Hurricane Ike, low-income neighborhoods remained dotted with blue tarps and damaged homes without hope for assistance to rebuild. The money was on its way elsewhere. After the Tax Day Flood of 2016, people in Houston’s Greenspoint neighborhood were being forced by their landlords to pay rent on apartments that were uninhabitable.

“These memories were on our minds when we joined our allies in forming the Harvey Community Relief Fund earlier this week.

“We know from experience that after the rescues are done and people leave the shelters, the communities where we organize, low income African American and Latino neighborhoods, are not foremost on the minds of people leading the reconstruction efforts. We know from experience that after natural disasters our communities are easily forgotten and marginalized, as they are even on good days.

“We thank our local and national allies who know our work and have expressed their trust in us and our partners by promoting this fund to their networks. Unequivocally, every penny given to this fund will be spent on making the communities impacted by Harvey whole again. We are committed to being transparent about our expenditures as the process unfolds and will make ourselves accountable to the communities this fund will serve.

“In an ideal world, a fund to organize low-income communities of color would not be needed, but this is the reality we live in. We’ve got our sleeves rolled up and are ready to rebuild. Shame on anyone who tries to exploit this disaster for political gain by implying anything else.”


Texas Organizing Project Education Fund organizes Black and Latino communities in Harris, Bexar and Dallas counties. For more information, visit organizetexas.org.