Friday, September 08, 2017

Dispatches from Beaumont, Texas

New Light Volunteers
I had a conversation Sept. 5 with Sheryl Ball. A cousin of Sister Afua Holt, journalist, I caught her in the middle of preparing disaster packages for the community in Beaumont.  One of the coastal cities, I'd heard a lot about Beaumont, Port Arthur and other areas nearby. Ms. Ball said she'd had people staying with her. When one family left for home, another stepped into his or her shoes.

Though hit hard, everywhere was not flooded. However, there are areas of Beaumont still underwater and without electricity and water.  
I had an opportunity to speak to Sheryl Ball in Beaumont, a small town near the Gulf of Mexico, I heard the entire city was under water – but Mrs. Ball said she didn’t experience flooding. However her brother who lives on the outskirts of Beaumont in a trailer park, experienced water up to the cars. He had to leave once the rain started in earnest Sunday, August 27. It got up to 47 inches she said; however, they went back.

It was flooding on the highways headed to Rose City and along Hwy. 105, Hwy. 90 toward Liberty and Dayton as well.  The north end of Beaumont is still flooded.  Many elders in that area refused to leave. They said they would tough it out, but today, someone called and reported the 30 people stranded there without water and electricity. They didn’t leave, Mrs. Ball said, because they didn’t have anywhere to go. They also didn’t leave because they felt their apartments would be burglarized.

Her houseguest went back to pack a few belongings because the state was not going to let anyone return. While they toughed out the storm, someone ran a generator for the elder residents. The owner knew they were stranded yet did not report this to authorities. Speculation is he was too busy taking care of his personal property.  Luckily, everyone is okay.

The couple who were staying with her went home Sunday, and the women who was at the apartment complex arrived Sunday. Major Drive was under water and where Mrs. Ball's brother lives, a big hole where the city is building a megastore flooded his home. Without mail delivery people are dependent on support from their neighbors. One of Ball’s friends “couldn’t get food stamps because she lost her identification card.  She had to wait for the mail man for its replacement. Mail didn’t start back up until the end of last week.

All the evacuees were sent different places, and family members have not been able to keep up with their transport. “One of my cousins is in a shelter. I don’t know where he is.” Mrs. Ball said.  Her son who lives off 11th and Fannett Road, told his mother the water stopped just below the wall sockets in his house, while another relative said the water stopped at the foot of his driveway.”

When asked about a curfew, she said there is none there.

Since she was at her church, New Light, when I called, I was able to speak to Pastor Tina Egans, who with her husband serve the 
New Light Christian Center Beaumont congregation. Text to give:71441NewLight   There are four (4) churches in Houston and one (1) in Beaumont.

Pastors Tina and Terry Egans, live in the Northern area in Houston—Spring area. They didn't have any flooding there; however, the couple are familar with disaster relief: Ike, Katrina and now Harvey. One of the churches in Houston was used as a shelter for initially 60 people, eventually 400. The fire department broke into the structure in their rescue efforts. It is a large building, the Old Lakewood building. People were stuck there for three days. The Red Cross could not get to them. Metro buses couldn't get to them. The pastors were calling Congresswoman Sheila Jackson that Sunday, August 27 when the storm hit.

On the road, the pastors have been going back and forth between Houston and Beaumont. She said the longest it took to get back to Houston was three hours. When Cyprus Creek started flooding they couldn't pass. On August 30, they were about to get on the road again.

The church has a Credit Union in Houston which will be a tremendous help to their 20,000+ members, including those people in the community who also lost everything.  They have four distribution sites, and New Light plans to have a FEMA representative on campus. Lot of people might not have access to technology, so at the One Stop centers, people will be able to handle all their business under one roof.


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