Some people seeking safety from the flooding caused by Harvey were able to find refuge at Al-Salam mosque in northwest Houston.
“When I first got here I was looking for some of my people,” says Mabel Rozier, a 78-year-old African-American woman sitting at a table, with a laugh.
The storm made landfall in Texas as a hurricane on Aug. 25 and has now become a tropical depression as it moves inland. The mosque opened its door to evacuees on Aug. 26 and at 2 a.m., the next day, people began showing up. It welcomed 34 people who were brought in mostly from the local area. Seven evacuees remained Tuesday, but donations piled up as volunteers prepared for more people to come as the floods begin to affect different neighborhoods.
The long table where Rozier sits is in the middle of the gymnasium and holds rows of bedding, some of it neatly lined up and some of it covering half the floor. Other tables are ladened with piles of donations, including medical supplies, food and clothing.
Rozier wanted to stay in her home, a few miles away in the Champions Forest neighborhood of Houston, but she was rescued by boat from her third-floor apartment.
“It was dark,” she says. “The lights went out. The water went off. Everyone else was gone. Finally I gave in.”
After being pulled into a rescue boat, Rozier was brought to the nearby mosque. She had never been inside a mosque before and peppered Samina Kasin with questions about what she does. Kasin is vice principal of the mosque’s weekend school, where kids learn about the Quran. She volunteered to cook and clean for the evacuees.
Ania Charna has lived nearby for three years but had never been to Al-Salam before. She heard from a neighbor that it had opened up as a shelter. Charna’s home was fine, so on Monday she dropped off donations and asked if she could come back to help.
“It’s really beautiful to see everyone helping together. There was even a dog who was in bad condition and the owner couldn’t walk. But the whole team was helping to calm the dog and de-stress her and dry her,” Charna says. “I’m Catholic and my husband is Jewish, but it is beyond all that.”
Charna plays with Eman Razwan, 6, who is there with her family. Her father sits off to the side thoughtfully filling out FEMA applications on his laptop. Eman and her 8-year-old brother, Zeyam, run around playing with balls and toys.
“It’s really good to see that it’s not a matter of religion, race, color; it’s a matter of something bigger than that,” says Kasin.