In response to the destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Congress allocated $5.204 billion to the State of Texas for recovery efforts. In a departure from past recovery efforts, the City of Houston was given local control over $1.15 billion of these funds—and a short window of time in which to create the Local Action Plan, which outlines how federal funds will be used. The City of Houston’s Housing and Community Development Department (HCDD) sought to increase the role of community engagement in informing their final Local Action Plan and Disaster Recovery Programs-- its their largest Engagement effort to date. buildingcommunityWORKSHOP was pleased to collaborate with HCDD, the Community Design Resource Center (CDRC), Texas Organizing Project (TOP), Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), and the UT Public Health Department to expand community engagement activities in the disaster recovery process.
Beginning in June 2018, HCDD reached out to local organizations to plan a series of meetings with different groups to understand their issues and expectations, receive recommendations about next steps, and identify potential partners. Then, local and community organizations were contacted to build partnerships for a community engagement process that would inform Houston’s Local Action Plan for the allocation of Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Relief (CDBG-DR) funds and understand the needs of communities prior and after Harvey.
Due to the rapid turnaround desired by the Mayor’s office, the Engagement process took place over the course of six weeks. [bc] and the CDRC worked together to craft a methodology, design interactive activities that would engage diverse communities, facilitate conversations, and build the department's capacity to facilitate and implement community engagement activities. [bc] and CDRC provided support to HCDD and other partner organizations by developing meeting materials, facilitator guides, and conducting facilitator training. See below the city wide meeting locations:
The findings of the engagement process were clear. Houstonians voiced their desire for increased transparency and community participation in the recovery process. Improved drainage and long-term planning for future disasters—Harvey was the third disaster to strike Houston in 5 years—were also priorities.
The Community Engagement Report detailing the methodology was initially prepared as an internal report from [bc] to the HCD Department, but given the lessons learned and reflections included in the report, the City wished to turn it into a public guide for potential use by other cities looking to enhance their Engagement efforts. It was published online in November of 2018—to learn more, we invite you to read the Report in its entirety.