September 1, 2017

Community bands together to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey

Individuals and organizations are banding together to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey, and in Detroit, solving a housing crisis for the most vulnerable

On Wednesday, rescuers help a man from the flooding of Hurricane Harvey in Port Arthur, Texas. Harvey, which made landfall last week, brought unprecedented rainfall to the Houston area this past week, causing severe flooding and, as of Sept. 1, dozens of deaths. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Every Friday we round up some of our favorite stories of innovation and inspiration from across the country. This week, we highlight a couple stories from neighbors helping each other in Houston during Hurricane Harvey rescue efforts, and we also shine a light on an organization in Detroit that is providing stable housing to some of the city’s poorest residents.

An open house in Houston: When Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, Houstonian Jim McIngvale, also known as Mattress Mac, offered his furniture store and warehouse as shelter to those in need. On Aug. 27, as the storm rolled in and floodwater started to rise, McIngvale posted a two-minute video to his Facebook page. “We welcome you if you need a place to stay,” he said in the video. “We’re opening up both buildings as shelter during this horrible time.” He also posted his cell phone number, so that people in need of help could contact him directly and even sent out delivery trucks to pick up people who could not travel or make it to his store safely. By Monday, McIngvale’s two buildings were at capacity: 400 people were staying at each of the two locations. He also offered food for people staying at his stores. “Think a slumber party on steroids,” McIngvale told NPR.

Tiny blessings in Detroit: A nonprofit in Detroit is looking to provide stable housing for homeless and low-income individuals in the area. Cass Community Social Services purchased 25 plots of land in Detroit and is now building tiny homes—studio style, without dedicated bedrooms—on the land. The first six houses were completed earlier this year. “We were really looking for a way to give [the homeless] a ladder,” Reverend Faith Fowler, CCSS’s executive director, told PBS Newshour. “I mean, they’ve got to climb it, they’ve got to do the work, but we’re providing the ladder.” The houses are intentionally designed not to resemble affordable housing, which Fowler described as “boxes” with “no design.” The miniature houses are meant to instill pride in its residents. “It’s a refined, elegant tiny house that somebody would love to live in,” Ed Wier, an architect who helped design some of the houses, told PBS Newshour correspondent Jeffry Brown. “It’s really about home ownership and the American dream for people who stopped dreaming.” Watch the full video below:

Ducks to the rescue: Founded in 2016 in Mobile, Alabama, Gulf Coast Ducks provides tours of the town and the Mobile River using “duck boats,” amphibious vehicles that can drive on land, but turn into boats when driven into water deeper than five feet. When Hurricane Harvey struck, Gulf Coast Ducks co-founder Scott Tindle, along with six of his crew members, loaded the vehicles onto a trucks and wheeled them away to Houston. “We’re uniquely situated to provide a service most can’t provide,” Tindle told “This is a once-in-a-generation type thing. It’s not an ordinary circumstance.” Tiddle and his crew arrived on Wednesday, and they’ve teamed up with Fresenius Kidney Care to help people reach dialysis centers in the area. The duck boats can transport roughly 35 people each—a big relief to those affected by the flooding.

Tonight we loaded up to provide transportation for dialysis patients in Houston. Though we won't be able to provide our…

Posted by Gulf Coast Ducks on Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Mikhail Klimentov

Mikhail Klimentov is a contributor for The Renewal Project