By Butch and Nell Green
Overwhelmed! That is our only thought as to the last few days.
Today held revelations that took the feeling to a whole new level. We first began hearing about the Cambodian farming community in the Rosharon area about 30 miles south of Houston on Facebook when a friend asked if we were aware of that area. Pastor Panha Mey, previously the pastor of the Cambodian congregation at South Main Baptist Church and now an independent congregation, took Butch to the area.
Crude housing received three to four feet of water which remained for two days. Seventy percent of the homes in that community were affected. Some of them already had the ‘X’ on the door meaning that they were condemned.
Virtually none of the affected homes had been cleaned or “mucked” out after the flood, yet for the most part all of the residents wanted to stay in their homes or at least on their land. People were living in their cars and under tarps — there were a handful of tents. Too many were trying to stay in their homes regardless of the mold and odors. A very few went to shelters or a friend’s home. All of them want the opportunity to rebuild.
Besides losing their homes and possessions, they lost their livelihoods because their greenhouses and crops were demolished.
After being victimized by a flood, these people were later victimized by fringe groups that convinced them they should not trust the government. As a result, when FEMA came in, they were afraid to accept any help. Victimization does not stop there. While Butch was addressing the needs of the Rosharon community, Nell was at a meeting with community and government leaders regarding the state of human trafficking after the flood.
It is already being documented by Children at Risk the increase in sex human trafficking that is taking place as a result of the disaster. The city of Houston is responding and has been addressing the situation since the first flood victims showed up at George R. Brown Convention Center. However, due to lack of stability, social support and income, vulnerability to trafficking increases.
Labor trafficking is about 2/3 of the trafficking happening in Texas according to the study conducted by University of Texas this year. Houston, the fourth largest city in the United States is a prime target for labor traffickers as a result of this disaster.
So what are we doing?
For the Rosharon area, we are providing tents for shelter and air mattresses with CBF Disaster Relief funds. Teams will be working in the area assisting with various needs beginning immediately. We will be training teams who come in on the signs of trafficking and questions that can be asked to determine if there is a situation that needs to be reported to the human trafficking hotline (888-3737-888). We will also be taking measures to raise awareness in the Houston area about questions to ask contractors and other workers to determine if trafficked or exploited labor exists.
Yes, these are overwhelming days. We are so grateful to CBF and our CBF family for the many ways they have rallied to address the tremendous need here in Houston. This will take a long time. Together we are up to the task.
Give to support CBF’s Hurricane Relief efforts here.
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Butch and Nell Green serve as CBF field personnel serving refugees and victims of human trafficking in Houston, Texas. Learn more about their ministry at www.cbf.net/green.