Hurricane Harvey devastated my city of Houston and surrounding areas, and many have asked me how they can help. Whether you live nearby or thousands of miles away, here is something you can do.
The Unexpected Thing People Need After a Disaster
As the flood waters slowly leave our neighborhood, I am left with an overwhelming desire to do something.
However, with a huge part of our city still submerged, if you don’t have a boat or a big truck, there’s actually only so much you can do.
Often in a disaster, the areas of most need are unreachable to all those except the first responders and authorities. And believe it or not, some of our local shelters already have a surplus of volunteers (which is awesome!!) But what do you do then?
Donations are always needed. However, not everyone is able to give financially. Many hurricane survivors are still out of work or dealing with varying degrees of damage to their own property.
But there is still a way you can help your neighbors.
Related: How to Avoid Flood Insurance Scams After a Hurricane
A Simple Way to Help Your Neighbors Now
My husband ventured out this morning to one of the few accessible stores that is open in our area. When he returned, he told me that it was a solemn experience.
People were quiet — no one spoke as they waited in line for their turn to shop, faces cast down, avoiding eye contact.
My husband broke through that silent barrier, making the effort to connect with the people around him.
Like the cashier checking him out, whom my husband asked “How are you doing?”
“I lost my car,” she revealed. “But we are ok and I am grateful.”
My husband thanked her for coming to work and helping make sure that the community had access to food and necessities.
Her eyes made it clear that she was both surprised and comforted by the kind words from a total stranger.
My husband made it a point to acknowledge and thank the people he interacted with.
He made muffins for our next door neighbor as a thank you for letting us borrow her ladder to repair our roof. He brought a plate of food to the convenience store owner down the street who had been stranded at work since the storm hit.
And it really is that simple.
We aren’t all able to be the heroes risking our lives making rescues in treacherous conditions. We don’t all have the supplies, the physical ability, or even someone to watch our kids to do so. And that is ok.
If you’re not able to be out there saving lives, don’t feel guilty. You can still be a helper:
- Visit your neighbors on your street. Check in with them and make sure they are ok. Bring them a hot meal. You never know if they are low on supplies or if they even have family or friends to make sure they are ok. Maybe you are their lifeline.
- Support your local businesses as they reopen. Small business owners are always hit hard during disasters and can’t absorb losses like large corporations. Store and restaurant owners, independent contractors, hourly workers, waiters, bartenders, hair stylists, etc. need to get back to work as soon as possible. Your support makes it possible and allows them to feed their families. Eight years ago, Hurricane Ike put me out of work for a week (I was an hourly paralegal then), so I know from experience how important it is for business to get up and running.
- Say hello to a stranger. When you’re cut off from family, friends and much of the outside world it gets lonely. Acknowledge the people you come across, thank them for their service, and listen if they want to talk. Knowing that someone cares is powerful fuel for a damaged spirit.
- Contact local churches. If you are unable to reach the central shelters or have been turned away from a volunteer center, there may still be ways to lend an actual hand. Many churches are coordinating their own relief efforts and may need your services and/or donations.
- Donate blood. Find out where here.
If you’re wondering how to help from the outside
I cannot express how much it meant to me that so many people reached out to check on myself and my family this week. Even friends and acquaintances I haven’t seen or spoken to in years offered their prayers and their support. Fellow bloggers asked if they could help while I was unable to work. I am humbled.
My family and I are safe, but there are so many in our city and state in true need. Please help me in spreading the word, checking in with your neighbors, and donating when possible.
If you are able and feel called to give financial help, here are trustworthy Houston-based organizations that are going to need all the help they can get:
- Donate cash to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund (created by Mayor Sylvester Turner through the Greater Houston Community Foundation
- Support the Houston Food Bank that will help feed those displaced by the storm
- Houston Texans superstar JJ Watt has created an amazing campaign on social media to raise money for flood victims. In days he has collected over $6 million, with a new goal of $10 million. Support the Houston Flood Relief Fund here.
Houston, Texas, Louisiana, and everyone affected by Hurricane Harvey will continue to need help as they rebuild for weeks and months to come.
You are needed.
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