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Hurricane Harvey: Here’s How to Help

29 Aug, 2017


As Floodwaters Continue to Rise, Organizations Mobilize to Contribute to Those in Need

As summer turns into fall and hurricane season picks up, it’s likely that a few coastal states get hit. Sometimes, the hurricanes are simply like bad houseguests: they come without invitation, they overstay their welcome and they leave a mess when they go.

But they’re not all like that. Some are devastating and leave lasting legacies, and their names alone are enough to bring shudders to communities. Agnes. Hugo. Sandy. Katrina.

Add a new name to that list: Harvey.

Harvey continues to wreak havoc on Texas and its surrounding areas as we approach the 12-year anniversary of Katrina making landfall in New Orleans. Just as with Katrina, tens of thousands are being forced out of their homes. Businesses are being destroyed. Families are being broken apart as different members try to find accommodations for everyone – parents, children, pets and more.

And just as with Katrina, there are plenty outside the affected area who want to help. SDM has compiled a list of resources:

American Red Cross: The American Red Cross has opened shelters and is trucking in food. Volunteers are in place and more are arriving. It also notes that its volunteers, shelters and services will remain in action as long as they are needed. To support these efforts, click here, or use these alternative methods:

  • By calling 1-800-RED-CROSS.

  • By texting the word HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

  • Twitter users have been challenging one another to make donations to the Red Cross; read all about it in this article.

Those wishing to donate used clothing and other items, which will be converted to monetary donations to the Red Cross, can schedule a pick-up of such items using this link.

Salvation Army: The Salvation Army is providing care to residents in communities affected in Texas and along the coast. Like the Red Cross, the Salvation Army’s website notes that it is there for the long haul, and will provide ongoing support to the area. Information and a link to support its work is available here, as well as through these methods:

  • By calling 1-800- SAL-ARMY.

  • By texting STORM to 51555.

Save the Children: Save the Children has a campaign through which donors can help supply cribs in shelters and other items needed by families with children who were displaced by the storm. Those efforts are detailed at this link.

Homeless Pets: The ASPCA has paused its annual giving campaign to put ‘boots on the ground’ in Houston; it is presently setting up water rescues, emergency sheltering and relocation efforts for animals. To learn more or contribute, go here. Other, more targeted pet-centric groups include the SPCA of Texas, Austin Pets Alive!, Dallas Animal Services and the San Antonio Humane Society.

Specific Efforts: There are multiple independent charities in the Texas and Gulf areas. Those who are interested are urged to check those out. A few are listed below.

The Dallas Foundation: The Dallas Foundation, an organization that connects donors with philanthropic opportunities, has established a relief fund specifically for Hurricane Harvey. The money will go to non-profits helping the victims of the storm. Opportunities to donate can be found here.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner established a Harvey relief fund at The Greater Houston Community Foundation. The organization connects donors with a network of nonprofits and innovative solutions in the social sector.

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy has also launched a Hurricane Harvey relief fund. The organization says its strategy emphasizes "investing well rather than investing quickly, addressing the greatest needs and gaps in funding that may be yet to emerge."

The Huffington Post named the following, although there are certainly others:

Food Banks and Food Donation Points: Food banks throughout Texas are also accepting donations for people affected by the storm. Those interested can can donate money to Feeding Texas, a network of the state’s food banks, here.

The Texas Diaper Bank is putting together disaster relief kits for families with young children. Those interested in donating can do so here

There is also the Coalition For The Homeless, which helps coordinate shelters and outreach for the city’s vulnerable homeless population.

Portlight is a local organization that offers relief to the disabled and older adults. 

The Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce is raising funds to assist in recovery efforts in those two communities, which were especially hard hit when the hurricane first made landfall. You can donate here.

Crowdfunding site GlobalGiving has launched a hurricane relief fund aimed at gathering funds for local nonprofits in the storm-stricken region.

A number of online fundraising sites have also been set up through GoFundMe, with donations benefiting everything from hurricane and disaster relief groups to animals and families in need. The full list of fundraisers can be viewed on GoFundMe’s Hurricane Harvey Relief page.

Multiple corporations have launched fundraising drives to aid relief efforts. United Airlines has set up a Crowdrise page where people can donate to a variety of organizations, including the American Red Cross and Operation USA. Apple is allowing customers to donate to the Red Cross via iTunes, and Starbucks patrons can donate to the organization at any U.S. store.

United Way of Houston also has a relief fund. Donors can select an affected county to aid or choose to send their donation to wherever it will do the most good.

Convoy of Hope, a nonprofit that delivers supplies and dispatches volunteers to communities hit by disasters, is collecting donations to help people impacted by Harvey.

Please note that the Better Business Bureau has advised caution when donating to upstart charities. So-called storm chasers looking to capitalize on the disaster may launch crowdfunding appeals, according to the BBB. Those who see a suspicious campaign can now report it to the BBB Scam Tracker, or to the Texas attorney general's hotline at 800-621-0508 or via e-mail at consumeremergency@nag.texas.gov.

Various Services:

Facebook Safety Check: Facebook has brought its Safety Check feature back online so that those affected can give status updates for family and friends in outlying areas. Details about this feature are available here.

Shelters: Many establishments have opened their doors to evacuees. Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center (which was used to accommodate Hurricane Katrina’s victims in 2005) is up and running as a shelter – and is nearly at capacity. Two Houston-area furniture stores also have opened their doors to people (and pets) who need a roof over their heads and a place to sleep.

A list of shelters (that is constantly being updated) can be found here.

Airbnb has launched a portal so that the people who have been displaced by the hurricane can find a place to stay. It’s also waiving fees for people affected by the disaster. More details are available on the Airbnb website here.

A recent news item noted that shelters in Texas had pledged not to ask any evacuees about their immigration status.

Blood Donation: Blood centers expect a supply shortage because of the closure of some blood banks along the Texas coast and the likely demand stemming from injuries sustained in the storm. Centers have put out calls for extra donors to help deal with the aftermath.

Note: While out-of-the-area donations of blood through the Red Cross and various hospitals generally do not go directly to areas affected by the hurricane, blood donation is always appreciated and is always welcome and always needed. To find a Red Cross blood drive near you, go here.

Material Donations (Goods and Services): While many wish to directly donate clothing, cans of food, business services and more, disaster relief workers say those efforts are not what is needed at this time. NPR cautions that before donating, individuals should take the advice of Bob Ottenhoff, president and CEO of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

"This is not the time to be donating products or even services," he says. "That's frequently the urge, and most often that is the wrong thing to do. ...With the floods blocking off streets, when warehouses are not available, there's no place for these products — there's no place to store anything, there's no place to distribute anything. And that's going to be the case for some time." (And with both of Houston’s major airports closed, there are few ways to move material donations across the country.)

This article about items good-intentioned people donated unnecessarily (stuffed animals, half-used items from medicine cabinets, dilapidated shoes and even formal clothing) reinforces this message.

Instead, Ottenhof says, people should give money to groups they trust, and that have the ability to provide aid where it's needed most.

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