One silver lining in the wake of Harvey's destruction is that it spotlighted Houston's can-do spirit. As the city works to rebuild, Houston's TXRX maker space is building on that—literally—by offering a series of free do-it-yourself workshops and seminars focused on short and long-term Harvey recovery.
The seminars begin this weekend and will touch on everything from FEMA applications and contractor vetting to how to hang drywall and woodworking. Classes will be beginner-friendly and are aimed towards both those affected by Harvey and those who want to help with the rebuilding efforts. TXRX is calling it the Crafters for Good Initiative.
The first round of seminars will take place tonight, Sept. 15, at 7 p.m. at TXRX's headquarters on 205 Roberts Street east of downtown. This weekend's classes will focus on immediate needs, said TXRX volunteer coordinator Ronnie DeVries—how to apply for FEMA aid, how to reapply if you get rejected, how to document losses for insurance purposes and how to vet and hire a contractor.
Classes will also address how to protect yourself while cleaning and demo-ing damaged property, and will cover resources like faith organizations, non-profits and Facebook groups people can turn to throughout the rebuilding process. Each class will last an hour, and DeVries plans to cater the seminars to the specific needs of the people in each class.
"We want to empower you to do some basic stuff yourself," DeVries said.
As rebuilding progresses and needs change, so will the seminars. Future seminars will focus more on physical rebuilding. No construction experience is required.
"We're assuming nothing," said DeVries, referring to the beginner-friendly nature of the classes. "We'll start with the basic, simplest stuff that I think has the biggest impact—how to put up dry wall, how to mud it and sand it, and how to put up trim. That starts with learning how to measure and mark."
TXRX will be providing all materials for the classes and each project can be completed using simple tools, stuff most people will already have at home or be able to buy cheaply. Eventually, DeVries is hoping to create an apprenticeship program for skills like drywall hanging and carpentry so that people might be able to earn some money from that work.
"Right now, we don't have enough people to do the work," he said. "We need to train people—people need jobs and people need to do this work. And the thing holding them back is the knowledge of how to do it."
In addition to the seminars, TXRX will be holding Make-A-Thons—the first one is scheduled for this weekend—where anyone can come in and donate their time to help fabricate and build furniture that will be donated to Houston residents who lost everything in the storm. Volunteers will build coffee tables, kitchen tables and bed frames. TXRX is pairing up with the Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS) to identify families in need of these donations. TRXR is doing all the fabrication of the furniture components, from the cutting of metal to sanding and painting the wood.
DeVries said all of these events are part of TXRX's greater mission, which is to disrupt the traditional system of education, specifically profit-based education. (TXRX is a non-profit.)
"We are about a different paradigm," he said. "This stuff should be shared. People should share, people want to share, it's more fun to do it that way. My goal here is nothing short of us disrupting vocational training and higher learning."
The seminars are being funded by a donation from Mattress Mack. The schedule for all seminars and Make-A-Thons can be found at HarveySeminars.org.