The rains have ended and the sun is finally shining on Houston, finally revealing the long, difficult road to recovery all Houstonians face. For those that are able and so inclined, there are so many opportunities to help, from not only the old national stalwarts like the Red Cross, Salvation Army and United Way, but local organizations like the Houston Food Bank, The Montrose Center and the Houston Humane Society. Keep reading for ten ways to help (plus a few more), both today and in the coming weeks.
Sketch City’s Interactive Shelter Map
The “technology advocates and civic hackers” of Sketch City have once again put their computer skills to use for the greater good by building a crowdsourced, interactive map of shelters and organizations providing lodging and aid to Harvey evacuees. This map builds upon their previous map, which locates shelters for people in need, by identifying not only the locations of places to turn, but what kind of supply and volunteer needs each of those places have. It’s updated regularly by a team of volunteers, so for the most up-to-date listing of ways to directly help, be sure to check it out.
Houston Food Bank
The Houston Food Bank has and will continue to be a much needed resource for many people as recovery from Harvey gets underway. You can make a financial donation, volunteers can now sign up for shifts at the Food Bank, or you can drop off food and supplies through Saturday, September 9 (8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday) at 535 Portwall. Visit their website for guidelines on what they need, but expect canned, ready-to-eat foods with pull tops, proteins in pouches, snacks, toiletries, paper goods, diapers and cleaning supplies. The Southeast Texas Food Bank, Galveston County Food Bank and Food Bank of Corpus Christi also need your help.
Circle of Health International
Harvey may have brought Houston to a standstill, but it didn’t stop the stork, and Austin-based Circle of Health International (COHI) sends volunteer field teams of trained professionals to assist expectant parents, women and families with newborns and children with medial conditions, as well as provide necessary supplies and financial support. Donations may go to purchasing formula for babies or emergency transport to nearby hospitals, or to the cash grants COHI is currently providing to cover the cost of food, transportation, lodging, clothing and healthcare for low income evacuees. The San Antonio-based Texas Diaper Bank is another more-than-worthy organization with a focus on parents with young children, so check out their Facebook page, which has a help FAQ, to see how you can help.
Hurricane Harvey Children’s Relief Fund
Save the Children works to provide shelters with the equipment, services and materials they need to keep children safe, which includes donating family-friendly supplies, setting up places for kids to play and learn, bringing trained staff to help children cope with such a traumatic experience and planning for the long-term, like restoring early education programs in the community. Whatever you can donate helps, and will go to everything from providing kids with art supplies to getting a crib for a child living in a shelter. (Houston’s own Art Mix is also hosting a crayon drive for kids, collecting not only crayons, but paper, books, puzzles, board games and non-perishable food through this Friday, September 1.)
Covenant House is a privately funded agency that offers help, in the form of 24/7 crisis care, for homeless kids and teenagers. Recently, they were housing 79 homeless youths – and they will keep taking in as many kids and teens as they can – and in desperate need of support. At this time, they are not accepting material donations, but would greatly appreciate monetary donations.
The Montrose Center's LGBTQ Disaster Relief Fund
Donations to the Montrose Center’s LGBTQ Disaster Relief Fund will go to helping individuals and families with the post-Harvey rebuild process through case management and counseling, housing, furniture and food. They’ll also continue their work helping homeless youth, seniors, people living with HIV, hate crime survivors and those devastated by the storm. If you’re interested, you can always make a financial donation or you can visit their website to view their volunteer opportunities, and note that though the Montrose Center focuses on the LGBTQ community, they serve all people in need.
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Trans Disaster Relief Fund
Unfortunately, those who are trans, intersex or genderqueer can have a hard time after a natural disaster finding shelter. Situations like the plight of Sharli’e Dominique Vicks, who was arrested after using a women’s shower in a shelter after Hurricane Katrina, inspired the Transgender Foundation of America to organize relief funds targeted to help the trans community. Similarly, Casa de Ana is an emergency shelter program, a division of Organization Latina de Trans en Texas, and they are also in need emergency support, as they are running low on food, water, mattresses and many other items needed to house those displaced by the storm. They’ll gladly accept financial donations or material donations of housing items.
Portlight, Living Hope Wheelchair Association and Little Lobbyists
Three organization that assist people with disabilities are Portlight, Living Hope Wheelchair Association and Little Lobbyists, and they all need your help. Portlight is an organization that provides technical assistance and guidance to people with disabilities to ensure they are not turned away from shelters, denied sign-language interpreters or institutionalized inappropriately. Houston’s own Living Hope Wheelchair Association anticipates helping people with housing, vehicle repair and access to healthcare and medication. Little Lobbyists, an organization dedicated to advocating for children with complex medical needs, are currently collecting pediatric medical supplies and organizations in and around Houston to distribute them.
Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund
Mayor Sylvester Turner established the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund just days ago to meet both individuals and corporations looking for a way to help. Administered by the Greater Houston Community Foundation, all donations will be tax deductible. Donations can be made online, by mail or wire transfer.
Houston Humane Society
This week, the Houston Humane Society announced plans to transport the shelter’s current residents north to make room for displaced strays and other animals. To help the furry, four-legged victims of Harvey, donate or check out their Hurricane Harvey wish list on Amazon and get items like cat litter, dog food, towels or disinfectant – all needed immediately. To date, Austin Pets Alive has taken in hundreds of animals and expect to take in hundreds more, as have the SPCA of Texas, so consider making a financial donation to either of these organizations too. And speaking of pets, Lost Dogs of Texas has a Facebook page listing pets that have been found, so keep an eye on that too.