Picking up the Pieces after Hurricane Harvey

/ Blog Post

Christina Brown is a 2018 Disaster Recovery Legal Corps Fellow at Lone Star Legal Aid

Photo of Christina Brown
Photo of Christina Brown

Before becoming an Equal Justice Works Fellow, Christina Brown spent two years focused on workers compensation issues in Texas. While the work was important, she felt like something was missing—that’s when she found the Disaster Recovery Legal Corps (DRLC).

A native Texan, Christina has experienced her fair share of natural disasters firsthand. DRLC was the perfect opportunity for her to be involved in her community and help people, all while putting her law degree to work.

Disaster touches every area of a survivor’s life—so too does Christina’s work. From applying for FEMA, to handling evictions and replacing critical documents, Christina guides individuals affected by disaster through every step of the recovery process.

She hopes her work will help her clients create proactive rather than reactive solutions to disaster recovery. “Another disaster will inevitably happen; it is just a matter of time. If we can get the information out on the correct way to get a contractor or the correct amount you should put down [for repairs], we are hoping that [the aftermath of] the next disaster is not as bad,” says Christina.

It can be challenging work, but to Christina, it’s worth it. Her passion is helping people who have been stricken by disaster and are being taken advantage of in their time of need.

The case of Ms. Texas—whose name has been changed for confidentiality reasons—is a perfect example. Ms. Texas is a young single mother of six children, whose home was destroyed by Hurricane Harvey when a tree smashed through the roof of her house

Not knowing what to do, Ms. Texas turned to her local church for help. They referred her to a ‘long-term recovery group,’ and upon filling out paperwork, she was told that she qualified for a free home to be built on her land. Ms. Texas was ecstatic, saying, “things like this do not happen to people like me.”

Everything seemed fine as the group began building the home. However, two weeks before the house was set to be completed, the organization demanded that Ms. Texas sign a $68,000 mortgage for the “free” home, putting a lien on her land. As a result, if she ever missed a payment, the organization could put her home into foreclosure.

Ms. Texas and her six children had effectively been homeless for two years already, staying with various friends and family members and occasionally sleeping in motel rooms or their car. When the group demanded that she sign the agreement, she and her six children were living in a single motel room. It was around this time that her case landed on Christina’s desk.

Christina knew immediately that this was a case she needed to take. Shortly after the organization tried to make Ms. Texas sign the mortgage agreement, they obtained an ex parte temporary restraining order (TRO) to prevent the family from moving into their now-finished home. The fact that they were living in a motel added additional pressure for Ms. Texas to sign the agreement.

Christina and another attorney in the foreclosure department at Lone Star Legal Aid were able to convince the judge to dissolve the TRO. Ms. Texas was able to get the remaining inspections complete and move into her home with her kids. The case is ongoing, but with Christina’s help, Ms. Texas and her family now have a home.

“The feeling I felt, the emotion that I felt when the temporary restraining order was dissolved, and to see her expression…that is not something I will ever forget; that is everything to her” says Christina.

Christina is just getting started. Following her DRLC Fellowship, she plans to continue helping clients like Ms. Texas access the services they need to stabilize and rebuild their lives.

To learn more about Christina and her project, visit her Fellow profile.

The Disaster Recovery Legal Corps has received philanthropic support from the American Red Cross, Bigglesworth Family Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Florida Bar Foundation, Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative, Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, Sharon and Ivan Fong Family Foundation, and the Texas Access to Justice Foundation.

If we can get the information out on the correct way to get a contractor or the correct amount you should put down [for repairs], we are hoping that [the aftermath of] the next disaster is not as bad.

Christina Brown /
Equal Justice Works Fellow

Learn more about becoming an Equal Justice Works Fellow