HOUSTON, TEXAS —
Vietnamese-American Valerie Pham bought a house in Northwest Houston and had lived in it for two months before Hurricane Harvey hit Houston.
“My clothes are still in some boxes. It’s all wet and damaged. We just spent $100 to wash them all yesterday,” Pham said.
She is one of thousands of Houston residents who are cleaning up after flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey devastated the city.
Many Houstonians do not have flood insurance, including Pham, and will need financial help to rebuild.
At Pham’s home, floodwaters rose to just below her knee. The high waterline is prominent along her home’s walls, where mold is beginning to grow. She said she lost everything in the flood.
Small businesses hurting
While Harvey has done tremendous damage to Houston’s residences, its small businesses and their workers have been hit hard, too.
A mile from Pham’s home is a restaurant called Catfish Station owned by Vietnamese-American Doug Ngo, who came to the U.S. about 30 years ago as a refugee.
Since the storm, “it’s been pretty much a ghost town,” Ngo said. His seafood restaurant is open for business, but he’s had few customers, he added.
“Eating out is a leisure. I don’t think leisure is the word right now,” he said.
Next door to the restaurant is a convenience store and gas station managed by Indian-American Sam Ali. For now, though, there is no gas.
“Gas is a big part of the convenience stores,” Ali said. “Without gas, we don’t run the store inside,” because people usually would not go inside the convenience store just to buy food items, he added.
The convenience store is also running short of basic groceries, such as milk and water, Ali said, citing transportation issues getting around the city. He also said some warehouses have been flooded.
Cleaning up and optimistic
One of Ali’s regular customers, Neftaly Esperanza, is also feeling the financial effects of the storm.
“I didn’t have work for five days,” said Esperanza, who has two young daughters at home. “With no work, I’m not making any money.”
He said he has started to find a little bit of work.
It will be awhile before small-business owners learn the extent of the hurricane’s financial impact.
“You can’t really know. Hopefully, it’s not too bad,” Ngo said.
As she cleaned up her home, Pham tried to remain optimistic, saying she’s “sad, of course, but no matter what I just have to try harder and rebuild everything and move on.”