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Irene Podlubny immigrated to the US from Russia in 1984. Irene lived with her husband and sons in the Energy Corridor, a neighborhood on Houston’s west side, next to the city’s reservoir. She and her husband purchased their home in 1986. They had paid off their mortgage and had just finished remodeling their home right before Hurricane Harvey hit.

The Energy Corridor was not a flood zone. However, after much of the city flooded, the US Army Corps of Engineers determined that it was necessary to release water from the reservoir into the Energy Corridor.

Irene, her family, and her neighbors were not given forewarning. Many were in their homes when the water was released. As water flooded into their neighborhood, Irene and her family fled to the second floor of their home. After 24 hours, they were rescued by boat, with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Six feet of contaminated water remained in their home for three weeks. Irene and her husband had to hire a special crew with Hazmat suits clean her house, which cost charged $1500/day. It took three weeks to remove all the contents of the house and get the house down to the studs. Because they weren’t in the flood zone, Irene and her husband didn’t have flood insurance. The city never offered financial assistance, and banks were closed. Cash was hard to come by, and all that they did have was needed to pay the cleaning crew.

Irene reached out to Hebrew Free Loan Association for help. She received an interest-free loan, which went a long way towards covering the costs of repairs and rebuilding. But the construction isn’t finished yet, and they have tapped out all their resources. Until they’re able to have a kitchen and bathroom put in, the family is living with Irene’s mother in a small two bedroom apartment, where they’ve been living for the past year. Still, Irene is hopeful that their lives will stabilize, and the area will to flourish once again.