Linda Villarreal, 56, and her husband with disabilities, Jimmy Nunez, lost everything during Hurricane Harvey.

Their manufactured home was destroyed along with everything in it, and the insurance company paid off the mortgage but did not replace the home.

After staying in motels and an apartment with their daughter, they moved into their own apartment with two of their children. They slept on blowup mattresses and had nothing but a recliner because the rent was so expensive they could not afford anything else.

However, their future officially changed Monday when they signed title documents at Stewart Title Company for their new home in Hope Meadows in Bloomington. Two other families signed title papers for homes in the subdivision as well Monday.

“There were a lot of emotions. We were so excited when the day finally came and just full of joy when they handed over the keys,” Villarreal said. “Reality is setting in that this is finally our forever home. By the grace of God, the generosity of so many people made this happen for us, and I can’t thank them enough.”

Hope Meadows is a 40-house subdivision made possible by the work of the Victoria County Long-Term Recovery Group and numerous partners.

Samaritan’s Purse donated $1.4 million for the subdivision’s infrastructure. Rebuild Texas Fund donated materials for the first 20 houses, Rio Texas United Methodist Committee on Relief donated $700,000 for 10 of the houses, and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy donated the materials for another 10 houses. Mennonite Disaster Services, Disaster Aid Ohio and Golden Crescent Habitat for Humanity volunteered to build the 40 houses.

Thirty-four applicants have been approved for houses. Applications are being vetted for the remaining six homes.

“It’s been great because of Hope Meadows’ and the Victoria Long-Term Recovery Group’s willingness to be good partners,” said Vickie McCuistion, disaster recovery asset manager for Rio Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church. “These things can go poorly even with the best of intentions, but the leadership with the Long-Term Recovery Group is so strong.”

McCuistion said the thoughtful and collaborative partners brought many other partners to the table.

“It was hard not to see that this would be successful, and it has been,” she said. “It’s a great joy for us to see them pull this vision together and see it come to fruition, impacting people who would not have had a resource otherwise for recovery. It ended up being the last stop for a lot of clients who we potentially would not have been able to help.”

Villarreal approached the Long-Term Recovery Group in April 2019 but found she was ineligible for the various programs that offer assistance. The application for Hope Meadows was submitted in July and was approved by August, said Roslyn Murphy, Villarreal’s case manager for Rio Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church.

The Catholic Diocese of Victoria donated a House in a Box to Villarreal. The box contains necessities such as mattresses, bed frames, pillows, bed linens and three-drawer chestsfor all the members of the household, as well as a couch and a dinette set. Bathroom towel sets, kitchen pans, dishes, glasses and utensils also are included. To date, the diocese has donated more than 400 Houses in a Box to families in need, said Ashley Razo, disaster services manager for the diocese. Razo worked with Villarreal earlier in the process as disaster case manager supervisor for the Long-Term Recovery Group before she went to work for the diocese.

“I can’t put into words how rewarding it is to see a project like this come to completion for a family,” Razo said. “I’ve worked with the family for quite a while now … The House in a Box is one of the final parts of their recovery, and I’m just as excited as they are.”

Travis Hawes, project manager for the Victoria County Long-Term Recovery Group, has juggled management of house repair projects for the group as well as construction in Hope Meadows.

“I’ve worked for for-profit businesses, and after working here for two years, it really changes my outlook on jobs and helping people. So many people came together in all aspects of the job to help these survivors out,” Hawes said. “It makes me feel super blessed to be a part of it.”

Hawes visits applicants’ homes during the application process.

“Some of these homes were just really unbearable,” Hawes said. “So to see them be moved into brand new, clean homes with everything working and up to code is such a great transformation.”

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Elena Anita Watts covers arts, culture and entertainment for the Victoria Advocate. 

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