What You Need to Know About Harvey Relief Funds

Confusion builds across the state as struggling Texans seek relief from the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. This week, officials released a support fund for victims of the deadly storm. Within hours of learning about the announcement, families reached out for local aid, desperate to explore all available resources for help.

In total, 28 organizations received money to distribute to families from the city and county’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. More than 100,000 donors gave to the fund, with an average donation of $80. Organizers directed families to call 2-1-1 to begin the formal process of collecting aid, but initial reports indicate a lack of preparedness.

The Dean family lived on the northeast side of Houston, an area that was heavily damaged by flooding. Although the debris piles in front of their home have been removed, the place they once called home is now uninhabitable. They lost their house and everything in it and were forced to accept temporary living conditions while they figured out what to do next.

Living in a hotel nearly 25 miles away has put a lot of strain on the family. The father, Peter, lost his job after the hurricane, and the family’s nine kids are not in school right now. Just days away from their hotel accommodations running out, they seem like perfect candidates to receive some financial support.

BakerRipley received one of its first calls from the Dean family, right after Peter and his wife, Alicia, learned about the funds. When the Deans inquired about their options, they were turned away.

“We called, but they said nothing, they couldn’t help us. They had nothing for us,” Alicia shared.

That’s when the family felt like it hit rock bottom. Afterall, BakerRipley received the second largest amount from the fund, at $1 million. Stunned, they took some time to regather their thoughts and called again the next day.

The first round of distributions to organizers totaled $7.55 million, almost 10 percent of the $79 million donated to the fund. City and county officials established the fund to get aid to families more quickly.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says he wants an independent board to handle the funds, one with members representing the community, not politicians.

Several factors went into deciding which organizations were selected by the board. Groups had to demonstrate a history of providing service, establish the ability to handle a large operating budget, and exhibit the capability to distribute funds. The funds are dedicated to every zip code in Harris ounty, and are to be used by families needing food, shelter, and other financial expenses. Groups that are already working with storm victims in vulnerable populations received special consideration. Here is a list of the organizations and the amount of funding they have received, as of October 3, according to a list posted by patch.com:

  •      Aldine Education Foundation – $200,000
  •      Alliance for Multicultural Community Services – $147,500
  •      Avenue Community Development Corporation – $300,00
  •      BakerRipley – $1,000,000
  •      Boat People SOS (Houston, Inc.) – $94,000
  •      Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston – $360,000
  •      Chinese Community Center, Inc. – $100,000
  •      Coalition for the Homeless/New Hope Housing – $1,750,000
  •      Communities In Schools of Houston – $25,000
  •      Family Service Center at Houston and Harris County – $40,000
  •      Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation – $140,000
  •      Houston Habitat for Humanity, Inc. – $400,000
  •      Houston Food Bank – $350,000
  •      Humble Area Assistance Ministries – $275,000
  •      Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston – $150,000
  •      Jewish Family Service (Houston) – $343,750
  •      Katy Christian Ministries – $110,000
  •      Main Street Ministries Houston – $250,000
  •      Memorial Assistance Ministries – $350,000
  •      Montrose Counseling Center, Inc. – $130,000
  •      New Hope Houston – $25,000
  •      North Channel Assistance Ministries – $400,000
  •      Northwest Assistance Ministries – $250,000
  •      Salvation Army – $100,000
  •      SEARCH Homeless Services – $55,575
  •      Volunteers of America, Inc. – $100,000
  •      West Houston Assistance Ministries, Inc. – $66,000

Interfaith Ministries is helping out refugees, and already gave one local, Mohammed Miahldeen money to repair his car. Mohammed works two jobs, and needs a car to support his family. Interfaith Ministries is also known for its Meals on Wheels program, and is a good organization to get into contact with for families with seniors in need.

Avenue Community Development Corporation has plans to use its $300,000 repairing and rebuilding roofs on homes hit by the hurricane. Families in need of sheetrock installation or leaky roof repairs are already calling the organization to get help. After the funds were announced, more than 200 people have already called this organization alone.

Jenifer Wagley, a director with the nonprofit, said, “We want to help people with the unmet needs there, so we want to help them find a good contractor in place, help them across the recovery path.”

BakerRipley managed a homeless shelter during Harvey, and is ready to keep helping families that are most in need. The agency says that it is eager to assist families trying to learn more about the flood relief resources available to them.

“We’re particularly helpful with seniors, disabled folks, low income folks, people need translation,” added Melissa Noriega, a BakerRipley executive.

Officials working for the city and the county have already announced plans to release another wave of funding in the coming weeks. Organizations that do a good job of distributing funds will be considered for another round of aid, and the distribution is expected to continue for several months.

Families in need are encouraged to call 2-1-1 and speak to a representative that can guide them to an organization ready to help. If any of the listed nonprofit organizations are working in your neighborhood, you can contact them directly. The process can be complicated, so don’t be afraid to ask questions.

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