REFUGIO – After months of waiting and praying, Alice Silvas is almost home, a place she hasn’t been since Hurricane Harvey destroyed her house in August 2017.

Silvas, 63, has been living in an RV since Harvey left her home of 15 years damaged and infested with mold. Friday, the grandmother joined her family, local leaders and recovery workers to raise the walls of her new house, which is being completely rebuilt by the Golden Crescent Habitat for Humanity.

Silvas is one of the first people in Refugio County to get a new house since Habitat opened its satellite office there in September. The new branch, led by Ashley Jett, opened to address the county’s desperate need for housing after Harvey damaged or destroyed the majority of homes in the county. A report from the South Texas Economic Development Center estimated that more than 75 percent of homes in the county were damaged, and a quarter of them were left completely unlivable. The county is home to about 7,200 people.

Like many Harvey survivors, Silvas endured a second hurdle after losing her home when the mold spores in her house caused her to develop allergies and asthma. Silvas parked her RV in the corner of her yard, leaving her in close proximity to her damaged and mold-infested home.

“I couldn’t walk from (my RV) to the front to get my mail without having to stop because I would get short of breath,” Silvas said. “From day one, I’ve been staying in the RV, because I would come into the house and I would start sneezing; I would get headaches.”

Because she was battling coughs and headaches, Silvas said she ended up working fewer hours at her job driving nursing home patients to and from doctor’s appointments.

Silvas said she was excited to return home and for her 18-year-old granddaughter, Clarissa Mancilla, to join her. The two lived together before the storm, but since then Mancilla has stayed with her mom and sisters. Silvas said she cried with excitement and gratitude when she learned Habitat would be able to rebuild her home.

Habitat plans to build between 26 and 28 new homes in the county, Jett said. The satellite office opened initially with $499,000 from the American Red Cross and another $637,000 from the Rebuild Texas Fund. The group has since received additional funding from Samaritan’s Purse.

“Because of the significant amount of damage, we are focused on rebuilds,” Jett said. “But we are going to be doing repairs and rehabs as well.”

Jett said she hoped Silvas’ home would be finished by late April or early May.

Silvas’ home is being built by volunteers from Community Aid Relief Effort. The Pennsylvania- based group formed after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and now dispatches volunteers to communities in need of support after disasters. The walls for Silvas’ new home were constructed by volunteers during the group’s “Day at the Dome” event in Austin.

Silvas said she was grateful for the support she and her family have received and that she hoped others in need would also get the same support.

“I hope they all get the help I’m getting,” she said. “That’s all I pray for every night, that I hope everybody comes together and helps each other.”

Ciara McCarthy covers local government for the Victoria Advocate as a Report for America corps member. You can reach her at cmccarthy@vicad.com or at 580-6597 or on Twitter at @mccarthy_ciara.

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Health Reporter

Ciara McCarthy covers local government for the Advocate as a Report for America corps member. You can contact her by emailing cmccarthy@vicad.com.

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