“I’m coming home”: Families recovering with $131,665 raised for flood relief

PODS rest in the front yard of homes in the Onion Creek neighborhood. (Kevin Schwaller)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Nearly $132,000 is helping survivors of the Halloween floods rebuild, connect with housing counselors, store their belongings, and get other types of assistance.

The Austin Relief Network released new figures Sunday to KXAN News, after months of fundraising. ARA is a nonprofit formed to help after the Halloween floods in southeast Austin and Travis County.

Much of the money was raised with the help of a KXAN Give-A-Thon held in November. Other fundraisers included ATX Flood Aid Concert, Mexic-Arte Museum celebration fundraiser, and Keep Austin Generous Week.

“I didn’t care about nothing inside the house (or) the vehicles I lost,” said Armando Zamarripa, who lives in the area that flooded. “[I cared about] three things: My wife, my daughter and my granddaughter.”

All three escaped the home and made it onto the roof.

Zamarripa has been working to repair his home. As he did, a PODS storage container helped him with a place for his belongings. The container was paid for through funds from the Austin Relief Alliance.

“So we raised these funds and we thought: ‘where could we put this money to good use?’ And we found that a lot of folks were needing storage containers for their homes, to keep their property safe,” said Leo Ramirez Jr., executive director of Austin Relief Alliance.

Zamarripa and his family moved back into their home Saturday.

“I’m coming home,” said Zamarripa. “That’s all I said to my wife: ‘we’re going home’.”

Homeowners on Wild Onion Dr. work to repair their houses nearly four months after the Halloween floods. (Kevin Schwaller)
Homeowners on Wild Onion Dr. work to repair their houses nearly four months after the Halloween floods. (Kevin Schwaller)

Still, many families have yet to reach the point where damaged houses are homes again.

Nearly four months after the floods, some homeowners still spend Sunday afternoons making repairs.

“Remember we’re from a working-class community,” said George Morales, Chief Deputy Constable of Travis County, Precinct 2. “So this is a community of blue-collar workers. So whatever free time they have is the time they put on their house. The rest of the time, they’ve got to go back to work.”

Morales knows the community and serves as the president of the Dove Springs Recreation Advisory Board.

“I think it’s easy to think that Halloween was a long time ago and the flood was a long time ago, but there are a lot of challenges they still have,” said Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, (D) Austin. “We have … a little under 500 homes that were affected. So $132,000 may not solve all the problems, but it’s going to help a lot.”

Although, ARA paid for PODS and secured money for Habitat for Humanities, it still has work to do with the money it raised.

“We’ve been kind of vetting organizations that have been kind of contributing to this community, who have needs, to figure out how to spend the rest of the money that we raised,” said Ramirez.

How ARA is spending the money (figures are estimates):

  • $50,000 – Austin Disaster Relief Network (flood survivor assistance)
  • $25,000 – Austin Repair Coalition.  (Home rebuilding and repairs)
  • $20,000 – Habitat for Humanity (Housing assistance)
  • $12,000 – PODS storage containers for 35 families
  • $10,000 – River City Youth Foundation. This money will help 20 families in four neighborhoods.
  • $10,000 – Expenses/fundraising effort.
  • $6,000 – Another 15 temporary storage containers.

Figures provided by ARA.


Who donated?

  • $94,665 from individual contributors
  • $25,000 from Seton Healthcare Family
  • $10,000 from AT&T
  • $2,000 from C3 Presents

Figures provided by ARA.

Many families still face challenges

“There is a long road [ahead] as it relates to … all the repairs that need to be made and/or raising enough funds, finding enough funds in our city budget to buyout the homes that want to be a part of the buyout program,” said Mike Martinez, Austin City Council member. “You see a lot of hope. You see a lot of frustration as well, though. I don’t want to shortside that frustration.”

Families looking for help from the Austin Home Repair Coalition can call  512-331-2600 or email at admin@adrntx.org.

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