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KERA's One Crisis Away project focuses on North Texans living on the financial edge.

After The Flood: A Disabled Woman Survives The Storm And Starts Again In North Texas

Allison V. Smith
KERA news special contributor
Felicia Rush was pulled from her Beaumont apartment after Hurricane Harvey and sent to the mega shelter in downtown Dallas. After a few nights there and three months in a nursing home, she's moved into a group home in Glenn Heights.

For people with disabilities, leaving before a storm hits, or being rescued in the aftermath can be complicated. One Hurricane Harvey evacuee from Beaumont is trying to hold on to her independence, while starting over in North Texas. It's part of KERA's series One Crisis Away: After The Flood.

Moving in and moving on

Eight adults live in the five bedroom, two-story home in Glenn Heights, just 20 miles south of Dallas. It's what's known as a group home. The folks who live here need support, and also need to be able to get around, shower on their own and manage their medication.

Felicia Rush, 52, has a room on the ground floor.

"I'm just glad to be living here, have extra friends to sit around and talk to,” she said. “I don't have to be in an apartment alone by myself, and I'm glad of that.”

Rush used to live alone, in a garage apartment in Beaumont. It wasn't in great shape, and Rush has a lot of health problems. She has heart disease, diabetes, a bad back and knees. She weighs about 470 pounds, so getting up and down the stairs was a real challenge.

Surviving the storm

When Hurricane Harvey hit, she was terrified.

"I called 9-1-1 asked them could somebody come and help me, I was too afraid. And the dispatcher told me she didn't know when the lights would come back on. So she sent the Red Cross and the police and fire department out to get me out because I was upstairs in a raggedy apartment,” she said.

Rush had been in her apartment for two and a half days before help arrived. It was too rainy for her to walk anywhere, so she just sat in the dark, all by herself.

"And the smell of sewage and all that, and frogs and lizards coming through the little cracks in the house,” she said. “I was too afraid of a snake or something come up through the toilet or anything."

She made it to the Beaumont Civic Center, with a few sets of clothes and her walker. She eventually flew to Dallas and ended up in the mega shelter at the convention center downtown. She only stayed there for five days. She says it wasn't a great fit for someone with disabilities.

Find out where Felicia Rush ended up and learn more about her journey here.

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.