After collecting about $79 million from more than 100,000 donors, Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett have started disbursing grant money from the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund to nonprofits across the region as thousands are still recovering.
Twenty-eight organizations ranging from the Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation to West Houston Assistance Ministries Inc. were awarded a total of $7.5 million in this first round of grants, totaling just 10 percent of the total fund balance. All the nonprofits have detailed specific plans for how they will use the money in 90 days, and they were selected based on their past experience with disaster relief as well as their ability to use the money in that three-month timeframe and to reach flood victims directly. (A full list of the organizations, the amount they were awarded and how they will use it is at the bottom of this story.)
Emmett and Turner said “not one dime is going through governmental entities,” as Turner put it.
“It was clear that the one thing we had to do was make sure the money went to the people who needed it,” Emmett said. “We live in a world that’s a little bit cynical — imagine that — and people say, oh, where is this money gonna go? We wanted to be sure it was not going to government operations. It wasn’t going to go to just ordinary expenses. And that, in fact, the politicians really were not gonna be in charge of where it went.”
Officials and leaders of the Harvey Relief Fund — chaired by Tony Chase, CEO of Chase Sources, and Bill Jackson, the Harris County budget director — said that providing housing help was one of the fund’s top goals. The majority of the organizations have pledged to use the money for rapid re-housing, home restoration, temporary housing, emergency needs and financial assistance. “This money wasn’t simply given to the 28 organizations with a ‘do your best,’” Chase said. “They laid out specific plans of how they would create positive impacts and benefits in specific communities.”
The big question: How can individual flood victims apply to actually benefit from these grants and assistance?
Since there’s no central helpline specifically tied to the Harvey Relief Fund, Chase and Turner said flood victims should contact the individual nonprofits that received grant money located in their areas, or to contact the Greater Houston Community Foundation, which oversees the Harvey fund with a 12-member board. Emmett said officials agreed not to have a centralized way to take applications — the way the Red Cross gives out its $400 financial assistance — because it would have been a bureaucratic mess.
“The last thing we wanted to do was set up a whole new bureaucracy to judge people’s needs,” he said. “We have organizations out there that already do that. It would have been a nightmare situation if the mayor and I said to individuals, ‘Call us and apply for direct aid.’ We couldn’t set up a bureaucracy big enough to judge that.”
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Turner stressed that flood victims receiving FEMA help or who have flood insurance are not automatically ineligible for aid from the nonprofits, and that the help isn’t necessarily reserved for those who were already low-income when Harvey hit. There’s no specific profile of a Harvey flood victim that the nonprofits will be vetting for.
“There are people in need trying to start all over again,” Turner said. “Even if you get assistance from FEMA, it may not be much. Let me tell you: You may have been doing okay, you may have considered yourself to be middle income — but when Harvey came along, it put all of your stuff on the street. So now you need help. You can be low-income and a senior, or a low-income family on the margins and this storm just pushed you further down…I don’t think this is the time when we exclude, because need is need — I don’t care where you are.”
Chase said that, once the 90 days are up, the nonprofits will have to report back about how they used the money and accomplished the benchmarks they sought to meet. He said the 12-member board will look to release another round of grants around that time.
FULL LIST OF GRANT RECIPIENTS
- Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation: $140,000 for basic needs, providing emergency financial assistance, restoring homes and handling case management and project management.
- Aldine Education Foundation: $200,000 for financial assistance to staff and students' families.
- Alliance for Multicultural Community Services: $147,500 for providing linguistically and culturally appropriate emergency case management to approximately 700 limited English proficient (LEP) households.
- Avenue Community Development Corporation: $300,000 for providing disaster and housing recovery counseling and home repairs services.
- BakerRipley: $1 million for providing basic needs, temporary housing, home restoration, emergency financial assistance and case management.
- Boat People SOS - Houston, Inc.: $94,000 for providing basic needs, emergency financial assistance and case management.
- Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston: $360,000 for emergency basic needs assistance and intake services.
- Chinese Community Center, Inc.: $100,000 for providing shelter, recovery/rebuilding, rental assistance and case management.
- Coalition for the Homeless/New Hope Housing: $1.75 million for providing temporary housing, rapid re-housing and home restoration, financial assistance and case management.
- Communities in Schools of Houston: $25,000 for providing basic needs, emergency financial assistance and case management to students' families impacted by Hurricane Harvey.
- Family Service Center at Houston and Harris County: $40,000 for case management and emergency financial assistance.
- Houston Habitat for Humanity, Inc.: $400,000 for providing home restoration/repair and emergency financial assistance (3-months free of mortgage payments.)
- Houston Food Bank: $350,000 for providing basic needs and teacher aid school supplies.
- Humble Area Assistance Ministries: $275,000 for providing basic needs, temporary housing, emergency financial assistance and case management.
- Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston: $150,000 for basic needs, home restoration supplies and case management to assist seniors, plus a staffing position at Volunteer Houston to facilitate the new volunteers interested in helping.
- Jewish Family Service - Houston: $343,750 for rapid re-housing financial assistance, resource distribution aid and case management.
- Katy Christian Ministries: $110,000 for basic needs, temporary housing, emergency financial assistance and case management.
- Main Street Ministries Houston: $250,000 for basic needs, temporary housing, home restoration, emergency financial assistance and case management.
- Memorial Assistance Ministries: $350,000 for basic needs, emergency financial assistance and case management.
- Montrose Counseling Center, Inc.: $130,000 for basic needs, temporary housing, home restoration, emergency financial assistance and case management.
- New Hope Housing: $25,000 for temporary housing.
- North Channel Assistance Ministries: $400,000 for basic needs and financial assistance for housing needs.
- Northwest Assistance Ministries: $250,000 for basic needs and temporary housing directed through case management services.
- Salvation Army: $100,000 for basic needs, home restoration and emergency financial assistance
- SEARCH Homeless Services: $55,575 for emergency case management.
- Tahirih Justice Center: $40,000 for emergency case management.
- Volunteers of America Inc.: $100,000 for basic needs, emergency financial assistance and case management.
- West Houston Ministries Inc.: $66,000 for basic needs and emergency financial assistance.