ABOVE: Strengthening neighborhood resilience through community engagement in Kashmere Gardens
When Hurricane Harvey ravaged Houston in 2017, the northeast neighborhood of Kashmere Gardens was hit particularly hard: nearly 3,700 homes in Kashmere Gardens flooded — that’s nearly 44% of the neighborhood houses. Recovery was complicated for residents who struggle to access resources, and they were further battered by the infamous Texas winter storm in 2021. The same homes already in need of repairs were now more damaged by power outages and burst pipes. Local residents faced an uphill battle with often-expensive home repairs: 29% of households in Kashmere Gardens live below the poverty line, according to the nonprofit organization Resilient Cities Catalyst. But a recent development offers new hope.
Working with the City of Houston, Resilient Cities Catalyst (RCC) developed a two-year program to help neighborhood residents. The project focused on the design and implementation of a “lily pad” (also known as a “resilience hub”), a facility that aims to help residents access emergency services. On Dec. 28, city officials announced that the Kashmere Gardens Multi-Service Center is now Houston’s first-ever “resilience hub.” That means that when disasters like Harvey or the winter storm hit, expert planners will be on-site to help people in the neighborhood.
It also means extra funding for community programs. That is vital for the Multi-Service Center, which already provides a slew of services. The Boys & Girls Club After-School Program is held at the Center. The Baker Ripley Senior Health & Wellness Center provides hot lunches, exercise classes, and even games for senior citizens from Monday through Friday. From Monday-Thursday, the Community Re-Entry Program provides resources to ex-offenders, like life skills classes and anger management, to help bridge the transition from prison back into society. Also, from Mon-Thurs: General Equivalency Diploma (GED) classes are offered to the Harris County community. (Other services include the Target Hunger Food Pantry and Cocaine Anonymous meetings.)
“We have such a broad city, almost 690 miles. So, having them in these central communities for people as trusted sources so people don’t have to travel as far, they can get the information from their own community. That’s the long-term goal,” Thomas Munoz, the city’s Emergency Management Coordinator, expressed.
That’s especially important given the transportation issues that those in Kashmere Gardens face. “One out of every five [residents] in Kashmere Gardens do not have a vehicle. They’re not transportation-dependent,” explained Keith Downey, the president of the local Super Neighborhoods council. “They’ve had so many shocks and stresses, and they’re suffering from PTSD, whether we want to admit it or not.”
These vulnerable residents now have additional resources to help them. And there’s more to come: the Kashmere Multi-Service Center is the first of several such projects.
There are three other hubs planned for Alief, Sunnyside, and Acres Homes.