Mold up and down the walls, rotting floors, water flood lines at knee level — this is what IU Cru members saw walking through houses in Houston last weekend.
Members of IU Cru, a faith-based student organization at IU, spent their fall break demolishing destroyed houses, tearing down drywall and passing out food and clothing to those affected by Hurricane Harvey.
The hurricane hit Houston at the end of August, with subsequent flooding and infrastructure damages that have lasted long past the original natural disaster. Though the physical damages in the city have begun to die down, Brandon York, IU student and Cru staff member, said there is still a need there.
So they brought in the Cru.
The group of 85 went down in vans last Thursday night to arrive Friday morning. Donors to Cru gave $2,500 to subsidize student costs to come go the trip, though students did have to pay a small fee to travel down there.
Once they arrived, they coordinated with homeowners on house reconstruction in neighborhoods and passed out supplies at a high school football game event sponsored by the sneaker company Vans.
York said at first he was pretty discouraged by what he saw when they first drove into Houston on Friday morning. Stray dogs, piles of junk and debris were still all around more than five weeks after the flood.
He said there are people who need help, but simply don’t know who to go to ask for it.
“There are resources, there’s money, but they need bodies,” York said. “They need people to volunteer and come and help and provide physical, emotional and spiritual support.”
Brady Schwartz, another IU student, said while it was devastating to see the destruction the hurricane and subsequent flooding caused, it was encouraging to see the positivity in the people there remain intact.
“They were really inspired and encouraged,” Schwartz said of the people he worked with over the weekend. “It was amazing to see how united the city of Houston was.”
IU junior Abbey Paul said they cleaned out the house of a woman who had just been re-diagnosed with cancer and had had surgery the day before the hurricane hit. She said the woman managed to keep a smile on her face the entire time they worked with her.
“All of these horrible things have happened to her, she could have been very angry and bitter about it, but she wasn’t,” Paul said. “She was still thankful for what she did have.”
York added that the woman is an example of how these people are not only dealing with the aftereffects of the hurricane, but their ongoing lives as well.
"People have not just the storm, but real life things that all of us up here in Indiana have," York said.
Jonathan Mathioudakis, another student volunteer on the trip, said people were coming across Houston to the football event, hoping to get some resources for their families. He said people were lining up hours before the event to get some of the clothing and shoes.
“A lot of these families saved up money to, you know, buy their kids shoes, beginning-of-the-year clothing, a lot of times they live paycheck-to-paycheck,” Mathioudakis said. “So these shoes and shirts were a really big sense of hope or something cool to give to their kids, a little bit of brightness to a very dark thing.”
They said while money can be important, being the boots on the ground was the most rewarding.
York said he feels churches are really taking the charge in Houston. While they were there, they worked with Lakewood Christian Church, Grace Church of Houston and Bethel Church of Houston.
He said churches are a good resource for people who may not know where to go. He said through Cru, they were able to be a part of that resource for the people of Houston. Even if they may not have the physical skills necessary, they have the heart.
“People would cry their eyes out just that we would show up," York said. "No matter how weak or strong we are to rip down walls, just the fact that you show up was significant. You just show up."
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