iluna@valleytowncrier.com

RIO GRANDE VALLEY/EDINBURG - Hidalgo County Precinct 4, Hidalgo County Community Services Agency (CSA) and the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs unveiled a mobile Special Response Unit Wednesday, Feb. 19.

Hidalgo County’s CSA executive director, Jaime Longoria said this unit has been “a dream of CSA since June 2016.” The special response unit will serve Hidalgo’s rural neighborhoods that are most vulnerable to natural disasters and when families tend to struggle to leave home.

“We realized families needed to be closer to home when they are affected by natural disasters,” said Longoria. “This thought process has evolved over the years and it’s exciting to take those steps towards making [those families’ lives] easier.

To share the initial idea of what made the official special response mobile unit possible, Hidalgo County commissioner Precinct 2, Eduardo “Eddie” Cantu explained.

“A few years ago we had a really bad storm that hit Hidalgo and Granjeno and CSA were the first people on the ground to respond,” Cantu said. “[CSA and the community of Granjeno] went to city hall because that’s where you go to for help but all of Granjeno didn’t have electricity. CSA was providing services to people in a dire time in a building that was hot around the summertime and [they] took action.”

The agency made a makeshift of its first special response unit to help families in need during that storm. Cantu shares they took an old storage trailer and put air conditioning, some desks, computers and “created the junior version to the beautiful [unit] outside,” referring to the official special response unit.

That makeshift of a unit also served in 2017s Hurricane Harvey’s devastation in the Houston, Galveston area.

“They took off like good neighbors do and provided its resources in that area to five different counties,” Cantu said.

The new mobile unit is equipped with computers that can help six individuals at once, air conditioning, a restroom and seating.

Cantu concluded his remarks by saying “Sometimes it’s not the most expensive thing that makes the biggest impact.”

The unit’s funding came from the community development disaster recovery funds estimating about $75,000.

“We are very proud to be a partner with CSA… in a time of tighter federal budgets…. the government gets criticized a lot for not being creative or not being innovative,” said Michael Lyttle with the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. “This special response unit is a textbook example of creativity and innovation in government.”

Hidalgo County Emergency Management Coordinator and former Mission Fire Chief, Ricardo Saldana shared that families in those areas who can’t get to help will be able to “make their claims with CSA to provide the services they need.”