BLOOMINGTON – The parking lot was full at the First Baptist Church on Saturday morning, where the Texas General Land Office was taking applications for the Homeowner Assistance Program.
At 11 a.m., about 20 people waited quietly in the pews of the church to apply for the program, which provides assistance through rehabilitating homes, reconstruction, improving homes to be stronger against natural disasters, elevating homes above flood level and temporary relocation.
Stephanie, a former Bloomington resident who asked that her last name not be used, said she had been waiting to apply with her mother since 9 a.m. During Hurricane Harvey, water destroyed the insulation in her mobile home and caused it to fill with mold.
Forced to vacate, she moved into a two-bedroom townhouse in Victoria with her 5-year-old son. She said she tried filling out other assistance applications, but has not had any luck since the storm hit. She heard about the intake session from her mom, who is seeking assistance to repair window, door and roof damage from the hurricane on her Placedo home.
With another child on the way and high rental prices for homes in Victoria, Stephanie said she hopes the program can help her get into a home that will fit their expanding family.
“I would like to have my own home again and not be renting,” Stephanie said. “We have a two-bedroom townhouse, so we need a third room. Hopefully this can help us.”
The General Land Office allocated $1.098 billion in Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Recovery funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for rehabilitation and reconstruction of single-family homes damaged by Hurricane Harvey. The central/Golden Crescent region was allocated $116.8 million for the Homeowner Assistance Program, and of that amount, 70 percent is earmarked for low- to moderate-income families.
In mid-January, the Advocate reported that only 19 applications had been completed by Victoria County residents for the relief program.
But Shannon Longoria, a community outreach coordinator for the GLO, said applications went up after General Land Commissioner George P. Bush visited Victoria to give retired Army veteran Victor Torres a tour of his new home. Torres was one of the first in the state to have a home rebuilt through the program.
Longoria said 142 applications had been filled out in Victoria as of Saturday, not including the 24 applications that were that started at the Bloomington intake session – an increase of more than 700 percent since Jan. 19.
“One of the advantages of coming into the community is actually having people not have to drive into the city of Victoria to fill out an application,” she said. “There has been a good response here, (and) I know our Victoria County (Long-Term) Recovery Group has helped get the word out for people to apply.”
If residents have the proper materials, applications take about an hour to fill out in the Victoria office or at home. If any questions arise, Longoria said, residents can call the local HAP office during regular business hours or visit its website.
“We really want people to know there is over a billion dollars to help people get back on their feet,” Longoria added.