The Texas Coast, After Harvey
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Hurricane Harvey devastated small towns along the coast of southeast Texas. More than two months later, those towns still struggle. That includes Fulton, Texas, a town of about 1,500 people. The mayor of Fulton, Jimmy Kendrick, recently spoke about how the slow recovery effort has taken a toll on those who live in the town and on him. Mayor Kendrick joins us.
Mr. Mayor, thanks so much for being with us.
JIMMY KENDRICK: Well, my pleasure to be here.
SIMON: And what's life like day to day in Fulton now?
KENDRICK: Well, it's kind of like Groundhog Day. Every day you get up, it's - you see debris that's been removed on the side the road one day. And you think - well, we've really accomplished something. And the next day, the debris is right back out there again. So mentally, it's affected a lot of people, including myself, seeing all that - just take a hard time to get picked up.
SIMON: Where are people living and sleeping?
KENDRICK: Well, we've got quite a few people that have moved in with other family members. Some houses that have only been destroyed partially - some are completely to the ground. We've still got some living in hotels. We've got some that are living in tents and vehicles. We found out yesterday from our school district that quite a few schoolkids are homeless. You know, 67 percent of the property here has been damaged in some way - or more.
So people have got stress trying to do a normal life during the day and have a normal job and then end up having to deal with the insurance companies and dealing with your mortgage companies and dealing with the assistance programs that you're trying to get help from that just takes repetitive, repetitive visits with to get things done. And it's not their fault. It's just the bureaucracy that's involved in everything doing nowadays.
SIMON: Yeah. So they have to make repeated visits and work for a living all at the same time.
KENDRICK: Yes, sir. It takes a mental strain on you. In my case, we sleep on a mattress in the back part of my living room 'cause the other half of my house doesn't have electricity and has got - you know, leaks like a sieve. And that's not a normal life.
SIMON: And Mr. Mayor, what's your assessment of how recovery efforts are going?
KENDRICK: Well, the nice thing is all the insurance companies and everybody else - they're trying. The world has just got us set up in this Privacy Act stuff. And you can't find out about anybody else. You can't do this without their permission...
SIMON: Because of the privacy provisions, which are part of federal law and insurance payments, yeah.
KENDRICK: And it works that way in everything - in the health insurance, personal life and everything else, you know. You can't check with anybody. So it's changed us a little bit that we can't find out who needs help like in the '50s and the '60s like we used to do. You could walk down and pull a name off a list and say - hey, I need to help these people. Nowadays, we go to FEMA if we don't know who they didn't help because we can't get the list. Everybody's wanting to help us. It's just we can't communicate to each other because of all that stupid Privacy Act stuff. So we have to understand it takes time to do that. This is not a race. It's a marathon - a long marathon.
SIMON: You know, Mr. Mayor, you spoke at a state committee hearing on disaster recovery recently and stopped a lot of people cold when you talked about the personal toll it was taking.
KENDRICK: It is taking a personal toll on me. I get depressed. I go home at night. I've woke up at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning, just tears coming out of my eyes, wondering - why am I doing this? - or why this happened to me. You blame everything around you. You wonder if you're worthless or if you're not doing your job. And that mental stage is on everybody. It's on our teachers. It's on our first responders. It's on our elected officials - anybody that lost their house. You know, you get up in the morning. You walk up to your front porch. Instead of looking out of over a front porch, you're looking into the front porch.
SIMON: You know, you're helping a lot of people, Mr. Mayor.
KENDRICK: Well, I hope I am. I don't see it, and that's what scares me most of all. We care about everybody. We have to reach out for all of them and try to be successful for them to help them be that support deal for them. It's not a positive day every day, but you have to make it into one.
SIMON: The mayor of Fulton, Texas, Jimmy Kendrick - thanks so much for being with us, Mr. Mayor. Good luck to you.
KENDRICK: Well, I appreciate it. And just keep us in your prayers. It's always nice to have a prayer given for us.
(SOUNDBITE OF VASUDEVA'S "SLOWBOY")
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