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'The People Of Texas Are Resilient': Houston Furniture Store Owner Opens Doors To Residents


Flooding from tropical storm Harvey has overwhelmed first responders in Texas. In many places, local groups and businesses are stepping in to help.


One of those is Gallery Furniture. It's a small chain of furniture stores in Houston. Jim McIngvale is the company's owner.

JIM MCINGVALE: When the hurricane first hit down here, my thought was this is going to be a one-day event. Then I came into work the next day and I saw the devastation of the entire area and decided it would be best if we opened this 100,000-square-foot furniture store as a shelter. And we have another furniture store in west Houston, so we opened both stores as shelters. And now we have about 400 people that are living in both of these furniture stores, trying to get back on their feet.

MCEVERS: McIngvale calls himself Mattress Mack on Twitter. And he's saying on Twitter that people are welcome in his stores. He's also posting pictures of families huddled on couches and armchairs and beds.

MCINGVALE: Last night, about 1:30 in the morning, this little girl came in. She's 7 years old, had her parents with her and I think probably her uncle. She was the only one in the group that spoke English. And she was crying. And she said, will you allow us to stay here? And it just broke my heart because it was so personal to them. And unlike an adult, she couldn't hide her feelings. And it was just one of those poignant moments that you never expect that break your heart.

So those type of things have happened to so many of these people. One of them had just canceled their flood insurance because they couldn't afford it two weeks before, and then they got five feet of water in their house. So lots of personal stories of heartbreak, but also lots of personal stories of people picking themselves back up and getting back in the fight.

SHAPIRO: One of those people is Jasmine Broussard. She just moved to Houston, and she had been shopping at a Gallery Furniture store last week.

JASMINE BROUSSARD: I moved to Houston to start a better life. And here comes Harvey like, you know what? We're going to take you back a step.

MCEVERS: Broussard is from Louisiana. Her family lost their home in Hurricane Katrina 12 years ago. So after she made it to the furniture store yesterday, she asked what she could do to help.

BROUSSARD: It was not about me because I know what I went through. And I couldn't allow other people to go through that. See, we didn't have no help. And now, if I could be a help to somebody, that's what I'm going to do.

SHAPIRO: Broussard is now part of a small army of volunteers at the furniture stores. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner to evacuees. They're also dispatching the company's moving trucks to get people stranded around Houston.

MCEVERS: Gallery Furniture owner Jim McIngvale says he's inspired by the people he's met.

MCINGVALE: The people of Texas are resilient, as are the people of this country. And, you know, my daughter's favorite saying is if not for my struggle, I would not have known my strength. All of us in Texas are struggling right now. But it will help us to be more resilient, strong human beings who can help out the community. We believe it takes an entire village to raise a child, and that's why we're letting these people in here. And it's a win-win for everybody.

MCEVERS: Voices from the storm. If you have a story about Harvey to tell, get in touch with us on social media, @npratc.

(SOUNDBITE OF TUATARA'S "EL BRUJO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.