24 year old Victor Cervantes was in the Army and away in Afghanistan when Hurricane Ike hit Houston and Galveston in 2008. When he returned, he found his home in Galveston County nearly destroyed.
“It was horrible. The way that I did describe, it was kind of like living in Afghanistan after coming home from Afghanistan.”
To add insult to injury, he and his wife divorced. He tried to pick the pieces and continued to stay in the house that once served as a home for his family. Cervantes later learned of a program funded by the Federal Housing and Urban
Development that helps areas recovering from presidentially declared disasters. Brenda Bock is Galveston County’s director of Housing.
“That’s what so great about this program. It’s picking up the pieces hopefully, for those that maybe didn’t have enough insurance or didn’t have any insurance, but the program is specifically for people that own their home. It’s very rewarding trying to help them.”
Bock says they received some 1300 applications for the Community Development Block Grant.
“This program is actually for those that kind of fell through the cracks basically and the low to moderate homeowners. We’re still processing applications, but we’re thinking we’re gonna probably either repair or rebuild around 700-homes for the first phase of this grant program.”
Cervantes says he was excited to find out he qualified, but admits dealing with the federal government can sometimes test your patience.
“We had a series of meetings, a series of dropping off paperwork. It was really really a repetitive process, but at first they had told me that there was a possibility where they would just repair it. And, I was happy with that, but later on when they told me we’re just going to tear down your house and build you a brand new one — I was completely speechless.”
Galveston County Housing director Brenda Bock says she can understand Cervantes’ excitement.
“Basically it is a forgivable loan. You do have to keep your taxes and insurance up. But after a certain time period, they will get a deed free and clear — give them a chance to start over.”
Bock says a good portion of the federal funding is going to Bolivar Peninsula to rebuild homes lost during the hurricane. You can find more information at www.galvestoncountyhap.com.