I grew up in Houston, the most diverse city in the country, and lived here until 2010. In those two decades, the first decades of my life, I met so many people from so many different countries, backgrounds, and cultures, all with different beliefs, opinions, and perspectives. Amid this diversity, many Houstonians share a single, common trait: grit.
(When we stopped by the George R. Brown convention center on Tuesday, an evacuee walked swiftly past us. “I’m trying to stay positive,” he said. “It’s hard, but I’m trying.”)
I’ve seen this extra dose of grit in Houstonians that are my friends, my family, and even in total strangers. Don’t get me wrong, this city is not perfect. It can be ugly and it can harden you, but there’s a reason so many Houstonians of so many different backgrounds are proud of where they live: as a whole, this community is rich, resilient, and loving.
When I left seven years ago, it was not an easy decision. I had a good group of friends, I lived in a fun neighborhood, and the beer was (and still is) dirt cheap. I wasn’t exactly dying to get out. I only left because I wanted to experience what it was like to live somewhere else, so I could see what life is like in other places. Coming back here as a tourist, I can objectively say, growing up in this city made me tough. But it also made me sensitive — an odd contradiction I’ve seen in other Houstonians. You learn to be strong but you also learn how strong other people have to be.
Coincidentally, I’ve been in Houston the past two weeks to visit some friends (not the best timing, I know) and watched the situation unfold. There are so many false alarm hurricane/flood/tornado warnings in Houston that it’s hard to tell when to panic and when to brush them off. Over the weekend, it was clear that the situation was going to be a devastating one. And it’s heartbreaking to see this city, a city that helped raise me, completely underwater. It’s hard to see my old haunts drowning, and it’s hard to fathom what friends and family will have to deal with in the coming months. As much as I can help while I’m here, eventually, I get to fly back home. It’s a strange thought. While I feel close to this crisis, ultimately, I am not part of it. Maybe you feel the same way, watching all of this unfold in Texas, unsure of how to help. More than anything, the organizations helping with recovery need financial donations, but here’s where and how to donate.
- The GHCF Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund: You can donate to this fund, established by Houston’s Mayor, Sylvester Turner and administered by the Greater Houston Community Foundation.
- GlobalGiving: This crowdfunding community has a goal to raise $2 million for its own Harvey relief fund. According to the site, funds will be used for immediate survival needs (food, water, and shelter). Once immediate needs are met, funds will be used for long-term recovery efforts.
- The United Way of Greater Houston has a relief fund for storm-related needs in the community.
If you’re in Texas, you can donate blood to the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center , which is extending its hours in San Antonio and New Braunfels. There will also be mobile blood donation trucks in San Antonio, as well as Boerne, Fredericksburg, New Braunfels and Seguin. You can call 210-731-5590 or check out their website for more info.
- The SPCA has been helping displaced pets in Texas and organizing evacuations. They released a press release asking for monetary donations rather than specific products. “From our past experience with Hurricane Katrina, the immediate need for animal disaster assistance is monetary donations. This allows affected shelters to purchase the items they need without having to sort through and store thousands of donated items,” they said, asking specifically for donations to the Houston SPCA and SPCA of Texas.
- Austin Pets Alive! has transported hundreds of animals to its shelter since this past weekend. They’re looking for donations and also people who can offer foster care for animals.
- Lyft has a Round Up and Donate feature and they’ve now included the American Red Cross in their list. So you can now reportedly round up your Lyft ride and donate to Hurricane victims until the end of September. (Keep in mind, many locals prefer you to donate to local, grassroots organizations instead, though)
- United Airlines has its own list of Hurricane Harvey relief charities and if you donate $50 any of the organizations on their list, including the American Red Cross and the Greater Houston Community Foundation, you can earn bonus miles if you’re a MileagePlus member.
- Starbucks stores will now allow customers to make a donation to the American Red Cross right at the register.
You can also help people displaced by Hurricane Harvey by donating cash to local food banks:
- Houston Food Bank
- Brazos Valley Food Bank
- Central Texas Food Bank
- Corpus Christi Food Bank
- Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley
- Food Bank of the Golden Crescent
- Galveston Food Bank
- San Antonio Food Bank
- Southeast Texas Food Bank