He lost everything to Harvey but gained something he didn't know he needed

Houston still drying out, one month later

HOUSTON, TX - In areas north of town, like the hard-hit Kingwood neighborhood, tall piles of debris--furniture, cabinetry, bedding--only just recently starting to get hauled away.  And there's no escaping the smell. 

The Red Cross continues to make daily deliveries to the hardest hit areas. Driving a Budget rental truck tattooed with a temporary Red Cross logo through the Kashmere Gardens neighborhood, volunteers hand off two cases of water to 26-year-old Joel Salazar.

He takes it inside his empty apartment--a converted garage owned by his aunt-- where he's lost just about everything he owned. 

They didn't have insurance. But then again, they didn't expect it to get as bad as it did.

"The water [from the creek occasionally] gets high over here, but it's never high enough to go into a house. And everybody kept saying, it's not going to be that bad," Salazar said, adding, "I'll be fine."

Now, he's relying on the kindness of others to get by--a mattress donated by friends, a t-shirt given to him by a local graphic printing company, and a place to sleep courtesy of his Uncle Hector, whose carpentry skills will come in handy soon. The smell has finally started to fade inside Salazar's place, and they can begin renovations.

But there's something else that's made Harvey--and losing his apartment-- that much tougher for Salazar.

"When I came in here, I just started crying, like I was hurt. This is my house, the place I shared with my mom."

Salazar shared the cozy one bedroom with his mother up until her death just over a year ago. She had Leukemia, and for a while it had appeared she'd beaten it, thanks to Salazar; he was the bone marrow donor.

"And then the cancer came back."

She died soon after.

"I mean, I never really lived on my own until this past past year. It was difficult the first couple of months, and it still is."

It was so hard in fact that Salazar had to put most of what reminded him of her--family photographs on the walls and tables--and hide them on the top shelf of his closet. 

"There was just a lot of memories there, and I just felt depressed every time I saw them."

But heading home to take stock in what stayed dry, Salazar takes down the boxes of photos--some of his mother's most cherished possessions, now his, too. 

Harvey, he says, is his turning point. He's quick to stress that he'll always be thinking about her, but no longer will he feel the need to dwell on his mother's death.

"This flood is actually--it's kind of a good thing because, you know, I can rebuild and make the apartment my place and my home," he said, welling up with emotion. "It's going to give me a chance to move forward and be able to come home and relax, instead of always thinking about my mom."

And you can bet that after Salazar decides which photos to display on his walls once more, the boxes with the others will go back up onto the tallest shelf he can find.

"They're safe with me."

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