Monday, September 12, 2005

Graceland Community Church

Graceland Community Church
869 Dulles Ave, Ste. D
Stafford, 77477
832-798-6878 phone number on website is not working
*I know people who have visited this shelter*

This shelter is in need of non-perishable food, towels, blankets, and children's clothing. They are also badly in need of furniture. They will also accept monetary donations and gift cards.

Family Life Outreach Ministries - Dallas

Family Life Outreach Ministries
7410 Gillon Drive Rowlett, Texas 75089
att: Deborah Cook
972 463 6954

While not hosting any families at their facilities, this organization is helping families with up to 30 extra people living in their homes. They are badly in need of many items, including new underwear, Diapers, SIMILAC, Baby Things, PLUS SIZE Womens Clothing, Large men's clothing, Feminine Products, Hair Care supplies for Black Hair, Barrettes, Bands for braids, Soaps, and Toiletry Items. Tax Deductible receipt will be given if you provide a list of items given with their cost. Gift cards are also appreciated. They have more needs than can really be listed here, so contact them for more material goods needs.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Needham Road Baptist Church

Needham Road Baptist Church
9268 Highway 242 Conroe, TX 77385-4324
(936) 273-6464
*I have visited this church*

This church does not have any guests onsite. However, they are serving as a distribution point for food, clothes, paper products, and other essentials for many evacuees staying in the area with family or in hotels. In the past couple of weeks, they have served close to 900 people. One family that they are helping has over 50 family members staying in a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house.

Copperfield Church

Copperfield Church
8350 Highway 6 North Houston, TX 77095
*I have personally visited this shelter*

This is a larger church and, at least at this point in time, they seem to be in pretty good shape. They were hosting about a hundred last week. I'm not sure what their numbers look like now. They do have a way to give online on their site, which is really convenient.

White Oak Baptist

White Oak Baptist
3615 Mangum Rd Houston, TX 77092
*I have, personally, visited this shelter*

This church has about 200 people in membership and is currently caring for close to 100 people, some at the church, some in a local hotel. They are planning to support these through December, at least. It costs about $10 per week per person, so tax deductible monetary donations are greatly appreciated. They also need food, diapers, hygiene packages, adult sized new underwear, baby food, formula, feminine hygiene, advil, and cold medicines. Mechanical help for broken down cars is also desperately needed. Many of the cars and a church bus managed to make it here from Louisiana but have now stopped running. You can take any donations to the gym. The sign on the door says drop off. They also have an elderly couple in wheelchairs and could use twin beds, as it is very difficult to get them onto and off of air mattresses on the floor. They are also desperately in need of volunteers. People are especially needed to sort and organize things.

Alternative Giving

On August 30, 2005 evacuees from Louisiana started pouring into Houston by the thousands. They joined the thousands who had evacuated before the flooding who were already packing area hotels. Busloads arrived at the Astrodome. Hearing that the Astrodome was being set up as a shelter, families and individuals who had made their way here on their own started heading towards the Astrodome, only to be told that only those evacuated from the Superdome would be housed there. With nowhere else to go, these people sat outside the Astrodome fence.

Even those in the hotels were in trouble. They left thinking they would be able to return home in 3-4 days. Few had more than a suitcase full of clothing, and now they were looking at months before they could return home, if at all. While some had private insurance companies, some of those companies would not pay until they were able to prove that their houses were destroyed, which was impossible when no one could get to their houses. These families were also not able to get FEMA funds because the had private insurance. Many of these people were not wealthy. Weeks or months of paying for hotels and eating out was just not an option. Some left the hotels. Others continued to stay at the hotels, but looked elsewhere for their meals.

Into this void stepped hundreds of individuals and organizations. Many churches who did not want to deal with Red Cross red tape, simply opened their doors to thousands of evacuees. The intent was to house the people of the Gulf Coast for weeks or months. These churches received no federal money. They were stepping out in faith that the vast needs of this homeless population would be met through the generosity of individuals in Houston and in the rest of the country.

It is now just over a week later. The numbers at the Astrodome have been cut by about a third. Red Cross shelters are emptying quickly, as well. But most of the small, independent shelters have either grown or have maintained their numbers. Because their guests are not at Red Cross shelters, they may have difficulty accessing Red Cross funds. Because they were not at the Astrodome, they were not eligible for the $2000 debit card program that FEMA briefly offered. Most of these smaller shelters fully expect to have people with them until at least December. Some of these churches are small, some with 200 or fewer members. Some are housing or feeding up to 100 evacuees. I do not know how these churches will manage without support from outside the Houston area. The people of Houston have been extremely generous in this crisis, and they will continue to be generous, but there are so many people that need help.

I have not seen the phenomenon of these smaller shelters in the national media. I hear from friends and family outside of Houston-- How can we help? Many help by donating to the Red Cross because it is the only way they know to help. I started this blog to provide alternatives in giving. If you are looking for a way to directly impact the survivors of Hurricane Katrina, I recommend contacting one of these groups and asking what they need. I have contacted some of these groups and made personal visits or know people who are personally involved. Some of them I know of by name only. Please be wise in your giving. Contact the organization personally and make a decision about which one is the best fit for you. Some of the items needed may surprise you. I never thought about the fact that many of these people brought old cars on a several hundred mile journey, and the trip wiped them out. Money is needed for parts and sometimes labor, although some groups have been able to find individuals to volunteer their time for the mechanical work. Every day brings new expenses and a new opportunity to help. Please look through the list of shelters and groups mentioned here and find a group that appeals to you. Thanks for looking. And thanks for helping. Please feel free to send me via the comment section any groups that you know of who should be listed on this site.