Finding new homes for Harvey survivors

Hurricane Harvey happened and once again, it changed my life. 

I thought it was a one-time life event when I became immersed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina back in 2005 in helping people across the country find new homes. Back then during the course of three years (pro-bono years, unpaid years), I had the help of many, many, many wonderful volunteers. 

So that when Hurricane Harvey hit, I found myself really in the same position I had been in back in 2005. I was wrapping up a heavy rental season, had been looking forward to Labor Day - which meant I could take time off. Finally. A weekend off. A week off perhaps. But, no, time off wasn't waiting for me at the end of the rental season. Before I could finish helping the last three AptStar clients of the summer I was suddenly engulfed (I need to use that word because that is what it felt like) in the middle of helping people and families who became homeless - from one moment to the next in Texas. As in Texas: a place where I have never ever been. 

And once again I worked from my office in Manhattan. This time aided by Facebook. It meant I could message my volunteers and have up to the minute information on people reaching out for help. I received so many messages that some mornings I was almost afraid to go to my facebook page because there would be untold stories of people in need waiting for me. 

It was and remains insane. Heartbreakingly insane. The workload is immense. But the people, wow, the people are incredible. You don't know about resiliency until you meet someone who has lost everything. Truly. Everything. And yet they keep going. 

It's always a labor of love, I have realized, to have the privilege of helping other people. Otherwise, why would I be up until 2 am, sleep deprived, and working through weekends trying frantically to raise enough money from friends and friends of friends to help pay someones rent? 

People tell me I am resilient and persistent and that I have helped save lives. I find that odd because I just think the desire to help others is instilled in all of us. But when I reach out to someone and say: "Hey, we're short about $450 to help a mother of three who is sleeping in the park and I need to get her and her kids into a rental apartment." Most of the time the answer has been a no-response. This perplexes me. I can't wrap my mind around the fact that many people are not tuned in to human suffering. But, the few times that I have gotten a response, it is life-affirming. 

So that is how I ended my summer and began the fall season. It is raining today and I am busy trying to make sure a mother and daughter do a walk through on their new apartment before they sign a lease in Pasadena, Texas. I guess I am doing free AptStars for Hurricane Harvey survivors. 

Life is beautiful, people, even when it's not. 

Love, 

Kirby

Matt Gavenda

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