Hundreds of volunteers have spread over in the community ravaged by last week's Hurricane Harvey, arriving in neighborhoods with shovels, axes and mops in hand. And they are driving pick up trucks, flat bed trailers and every sort of personal vehicle, packing streets in affected neighborhoods.

But the horde of Sheetrock removers, sweepers, food providers, errand runners and comforters are preventing debris removal. 

"Due to the overwhelming number of volunteers looking to help those in the community, there has been a large number of reportedly impassable roadways as a result of parked cars lining residential streets.Please make an effort to consolidate vehicles in an out of neighborhoods as clogged streets make it difficult for city services and emergency responders," said JessicaBeemer, chief of staff for Houston City Council Member Dave Martin.

In fact, social media is filled with posts offering every kind of assistance. Churches are organizing teams to tackle demolition, moms are forming 'sandwich squads' to deliver hundreds of brown bag lunches to those helping clean out flooded homes. Others are offering to run errands, bring black trash bags, cleaning supplies and brooms or to watch volunteers' children while they drag water soaked furniture and belongings to curbs.

All of the outpouring of volunteerism and the support of those volunteers has resulted in an unintended problem. The solid waste, fire and police departments cannot operate.

"We have resources on the way, but due to congested streets, they have been delayed. Council Member Martin is working with City garbage right now and asks for your help to clear the roadways as best at possible. Thank you all so much for patience, support and assistance as we work to get the resources to you," Beemer said. 

Mai Hoyt, a resident of Fosters Mill in Kingwood, posted late Saturday, "We need help in Fosters Mill. One main concern is traffic control. If we can't get this under control, first responders, volunteers, and much needed city services will not be able to come into our neighborhood tomorrow. The amount of volunteers helping our neighbors is wonderful but they are overwhelming traffic. Many people can not get where they are going."

"If residents could coordinate with their neighbors and start minimizing congestion on their own street, that would be very helpful as we try to move police/fire/trash trucks," Beemer said.

Martin said Saturday was difficult. 

"We could not get the heavy haulers, cranes, and debris trucks into Barrington, Kingwood Greens and Fosters Mill. We had too many people blocking the streets and we could not get through to help people," Martin said late Saturday, adding, "We spent two hours waiting to get out of Barrington to head to the landfills, but couldn't.

"While I understand everyone is trying to help, we are hurting our efforts to get this trash out of Kingwood," he said.

Martin said they ended the day pulling all trucks out of the most damaged areas, like Barrington, Kingwood Lakes, Fosters Mill and Forest Garden. 

"There were too many sightseers and people need to pull their cars up on lawns so we can get through. Lawn damage doesn't mean anything when your home has water in it.

 "We can get through if the roads are clear," he said. 

 The City of Houston sent a press release emphasizing the problem.

 "The City of Houston Solid Waste Management Department is asking residents to remove all parked vehicles from the streets when debris crews are working in your neighborhood. Debris should be placed close to the side of the road away from mailboxes, trees, meters, fire hydrants and other structures. Please do not place debris in the roadway. If debris crews are unable to pass safely along the streets, they will not be able to remove your debris."

Cynthia Calvert
Author: Cynthia CalvertEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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A trained journalist with a masters degree from Lamar University, a masters from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, as well as extensive coursework toward a masters of science in psychology from the University of New Orleans, Calvert founded the Tribune Newspapers in 2007. Her experiences as an investigative, award winning reporter (She won Journalist of the Year from the Houston Press Club among many other awards for reporting and writing), professor and chair of the journalism department for Lone Star College-Kingwood and vice president of editorial for a large group of community weeklies provides her with a triple dose of bankable skills that cover every aspect of the journalism field. Solid reporting. Careful interviews. Respect and curiosity for people and places.