Retired Army veteran Victor Torres used to sit outside watching his chickens and listening to the horses across the street. The tranquility outside was only interrupted by the occasional sounds of a train.
“The simple things made him happy,” said his daughter, Rosalinda Faidley, 58.
But this daily routine was disrupted when Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas coast in August 2017.
The 82-year-old’s home on the south side of Victoria was considered a total loss when the roof collapsed, ruining nearly everything inside.
Torres and his family returned to the property Tuesday to meet with General Land Commissioner George P. Bush for a tour of a completely rebuilt two-bedroom, two-bathroom house.
The 1,300-square-foot home is one of the first to be rebuilt under the Homeowner Assistance Program, which is administered by the Texas General Land Office.
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.
Faidley said the best thing about their new home is that it will be designed completely handicapped-accessible under Americans with Disabilities Act.
Her father lost both legs because of diabetes complications. For the past 17 months, they have been staying at a house that isn’t handicapped-accessible.
Bush urged affected homeowners to take advantage of the program before funds run out. The central/Golden Crescent region is allocated $116.8 million for the Homeowner Assistance Program, and of that amount, 70 percent is earmarked for low- to moderate-income families.
Homeowners can visit the Victoria regional office so a Grant Works representative can walk them through the process. They can also apply directly at recovery.texas.gov/hap.
“Victoria was, in many ways, considered ground zero for the storm in terms of damage that we saw,” Bush said.
However, the General Land Office has only received 88 applications from Victoria County.
“What we’re telling constituents is that if there’s any doubt on whether you’d qualify, you should still apply,” he said.
The commissioner describes the program as flexible because it provides help with the rehabilitation of homes, reconstruction, improving homes to be stronger against natural disasters, elevating homes above flood level and temporary relocation assistance.
While the work was underway, the family would drive by the home all the time to watch the progress, said Steve Mataro, owner of Galveston-based DSW Homes.
Construction takes about 16 days from tear-down to turn-key, said Mataro, a state-approved builder. The family can start moving in next week.
“Everybody comes out here every day with a sense of urgency to bring this family home,” he said. “This was the No. 1 priority.”
Disaster Case Manager Bruce Salzman has worked with the family ever since last March after they sought assistance from the Victoria County Long-Term Recovery Group.
The next step, he said, is to help them furnish the home with interior necessities. He plans to take this case to the unmet needs committee to secure funding from local charities.
“We helped them get through a lot of the paperwork,” he said.
His advice for other homeowners affected by Harvey is to give the process a chance.
“Don’t give up. There’s money out there and people who care,” he said.
Torres said he can’t wait to return home to the property that’s been in his family for more than 70 years.
One thing that survived on the land was a small water well with the names of his family members scrawled in concrete.
Faidley, who is her father’s primary caregiver, said she tried to save the little things for him.
“He took care of us when we were younger,” she said. “We gotta take care of him.”