How Can I Help People Affected By Hurricane Harvey?


texas-hurricane-harvey (1).jpg   People making their way down a flooded street in Houston, Texas. Joe Raedle/Getty

Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm when it made landfall near Corpus Christi, Texas Friday night, has paralyzed much of the state and left thousands displaced. One hundred and thirty mile-per-hour-winds knocked down trees and power lines, generally wreaking havoc across the region.

But it was the deluge of unrelenting rain that has debilitated points across the Lone Star state, including in Houston, the country’s fourth largest city. The National Weather Service estimates that an historic 50 inches of rain fell in some areas of Houston. Harvey, now a Tropical Storm, is making a second landfall in Louisiana on the 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Healing, recovery, and rebuilding require a substantial and sustained effort.

In Houston, private citizens with boats have descended into flood zones to pluck families from rooftops. The Houston Convention Center has opened its doors to all who’ve been pushed out of their homes, nearly 10,000 survivors at last count.

We all want to help. And we want to make sure our help makes a difference.

According to The Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI), monetary contributions to established relief agencies are always the best way to help. Juanita Rilling, the executive director of CIDI, explains that “cash donations take no time, they leave no carbon footprint (like plastic bottles, for example), they don’t cause cultural insensitivities, and they ‘are used by relief organizations to purchase supplies in the area surrounding the disaster site…[which] strengthens local economies…[and] makes the rebound occur more robustly.’ ”

But how do you know who to give to? If you’re outside the affected area, there are numerous options to help. Remember, it’s important to do your own research before you give.

Here's a list of some of the organizations that are undertaking the important work of helping save lives and provide comfort to Harvey survivors:

  • Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has established a Hurricane 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.
  • GlobalGiving, which calls itself the largest global crowdfunding community, has a goal of raising $2 million for its Harvey relief fund. Funds will be used first for immediate needs of food, water and shelter and then transition to long-term recovery efforts.
  • United Way of Greater Houston has launched a relief fund for storm-related needs and recovery. The organization says it already maintains a disaster relief fund but anticipates the needs of Harvey will far exceed those existing resources.
  • 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 United Philanthropy Forum has compiled a list of resources, including places to give as well as guides and research on strategies for philanthropic responses to disasters.
  • GoFundMe, the social fundraising site, has created a landing page that gathers the campaigns on its platform related to Harvey.
  • The Salvation Army says it is providing food and water to first responders and preparing for massive feeding efforts for residents.
  • Send Relief and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief says its teams began responding before Harvey made landfall and continues on-the-ground relief work.
  • Samaritan's Purse is accepting donations as well as volunteers for Harvey disaster relief for the coming months.
  • The L.G.B.T.Q. Disaster Relief Fund will be used to help people “rebuild their lives through counseling, case management, direct assistance with shelf stable food, furniture, housing and more.” It is managed by The Montrose Center, Houston’s longtime community center for the area’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender population.
  • To help animals suffering from the disaster, visit the Houston Humane Society or the San Antonio Humane Society. The Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has set up an animal emergency response hotline (713-861-3010) and is accepting donations on its website.
  • If you live inside the affected area, consider giving blood at Carter BloodCare or South Texas Blood & Tissue Center.

Also a number of food banks are likely to be depleted in the days and weeks following the storm. Consider donating cash directly to:

Perhaps the best way to respond to Harvey is by raising funds and fostering community awareness of organizations that support trained personnel on the ground. No donation is too small and every dollar contributes to saving lives and reducing human suffering in the most economical, efficient and appropriate ways possible.

Written by Aaron Lester