A Message from Indivisible Houston—Help Us Resist Harvey

When I was in college, Rita hit. My parents were fine; our house had always been fine during a storm.

When I was in grad school, Ike hit. My parents were fine. Our house was still fine.

At the end of Harvey, my parents’ house is again fine. And I am fine. My condo is fine. No water damage. No structural damage. Not even a power outage.

My family is fine, too. My father is out of town; he left before the storm. My mother is OK; I wish she were at our condo, but she’s OK. My Aunt and Uncle were evacuated from their home, as were some of our other close friends. The worst I have heard of those closest to us were a few intense evacuation situations that ebbed and flowed with the water falling from the sky or released from our strained reservoirs. One of our executive board members stayed with his family on the north side of town and moved several times from location to location, keeping ahead of the water before finally touching down at a hotel in Bryan, Texas, slightly stunned, but safe and dry.

Others around here are not so lucky. As you can see from the news, Houston and surrounding areas were hit hard, and many of my fellow Houstonians and members of surrounding areas lost everything. The City of Houston is about to transform from an area with an economy so strong it weathered the Great Recession into something else entirely. Thousands are in shelters. Hundreds of thousands lost their home. The city’s population will almost certainly be lower next year than it is this year. Sanity will be tested. Businesses will shutter. Jobs will be lost. People have died. Homes lost. Whole streets are destroyed.

A lot of us grew up walking and driving along those streets. We played basketball on the hoops that disappeared underwater this week. We went to the movies at theaters that have been transformed into aquariums in the wake of Harvey. We biked along the cracked sidewalks on streets that became waterways. These were some of our favorite places and now many of them are gone, all in a matter of hours.

Those outside the Beltway have been hit particularly hard. The southeast side of the Greater Houston Area—Pasadena, Baytown, Friendswood, Pearland, League City, Galveston, Deer Park—was hit particularly hard. A family of six was lost in Pasadena. Rockport and Corpus Christi—our neighbors nearby—encountered Harvey when it was still a Category 4 hurricane.

The north and west sides of town were hit hard as well. Friends in Katy and Barker Cypress updated Facebook as the water crept toward their doors, then receded away, on and off throughout the first two days of the storm, like nature was turning a faucet on and off to toy with us. “I’m nervous because we have three kids who can’t swim, including four-year-old twins, and only two parents with two sets of arms,” said one. She and her family evacuated the next day during a break in the storm.

Our reservoirs did not all hold; a lack of funding doomed them to overflow and breaching and doomed those near them to evacuation at best. An account rep I work with vacated their home mid-day after moving all items upstairs after floodwaters spilled out of Barker Reservoir. The spillover in Addicks Reserve similarly placed thousands in danger, as evidenced by Brazoria County’s giant red post calling for people to evacuate immediately.

Damage is still being assessed, but it seems as though the poorer the area, the more likely it was to get hit. The lower the land, and/or the closer it was to a factory, the more danger Harvey posed, a detail that surprises exactly no one. Greenspoint flooded for the second time in two years. Third Ward didn’t drain as well as The Galleria. A chemical factory in Crosby became at risk for explosion, placing both rescuers and those in need of rescue in severe danger. Word of an intense smell and billowing smoke from refineries began to sweep across the internet, mirroring the black rain clouds and sulfur in the sky above the city.

Cries for help have shown up over and over again on Twitter and Facebook from areas most affected with details and locations, almost all desperate pleas for someone with a boat or high water truck to drive them to safety. An elderly man on a roof. A mom with a baby. A family with two dogs. People with various illnesses and medical needs up to their ankles and waists in water praying for help.

To the credit of Houston, it has shown as much action as it has heart throughout this catastrophe. As soon as the roads were clear enough for any volunteers to reach George R Brown Convention Center (the city’s first official shelter), people appeared. Churches, restaurants, and residences became drop points for donations. People have been sharing intel about anything and everything since the first drop of water hit, helping one another leverage what they know and what they are good at to amplify capabilities toward the end of saving those in danger, and getting a head-start on rebuilding the lives of those devastated. An open source list of shelters with addresses, donation statuses, and other relevant details—needs, requests, extra notes—formed almost immediately. Another of non-shelter drop-point locations for supplies soon followed. A boat-rescue team network snapped together quickly as members of various groups (Indivisible Houston included) plugged into @HarveyRescue efforts to gather and pass along the phone numbers, # of people, address, and medical needs for individual rescue cases so they could be databased and distributed via Zello and other outreach channels. We shared moments of bittersweet celebration as we were, more often than not, informed that they were rescued. Our mayor declared that if any undocumented people were threatened with deportation, he would “defend you myself”. Various groups have run supplies from homes, stores at drop points to shelters and isolated homes around the city.

And Houston has not been alone. Indivisible groups from across the country—particularly our brothers and sisters in Austin—have reached out to provide support any way possible. They have offered funds, goods, translation, and knowledge. Boat owners and operators from both in-town and across the region have saved hundreds of people from the water per boat in a matter of days. They have rescued as many as possible, all day, until evening fell and made it too difficult to continue until the sun returned to the sky. They have joined us in our pain and helped us take the first small step toward what proves to be the longest road many of us have ever traveled.

And you can, too. Show lots of love to Space City, or HTX, or if you want the old school nickname, Clutch City. That moniker is about to become more than a relic left over from the glory days of mid-90’s NBA championships. Houston will pull through. It will rebuild. We will be stronger than we ever were, thanks to the resilience and spirit of some of the most selfless, creative, and impactful thinkers and doers you will ever meet.

Here’s how you can help.

1) Donate.

There are shelters and organizations set up around the city that could use assistance. Shipments of goods are not going to help for a while unless they have resource backers, such as some of the larger grocery stores, to help bring them in. There will be time for that later.

Right now, people on the ground need MONEY to operate.

Here are some ways to give.

General Assistance

Here is also a good article on how to donate money and other aid to communities of color – http://bit.ly/2x7kb7t

Food Banks

Childcare

Help for Undocumented People

People with Disabilities

Transgender, Intersex, and Genderqueer Individuals

Homeless

Rescue Organizations

  • Coastal Bend Disaster Recovery Group – http://bit.ly/2xzGMaE
    Accepting both cash donations and volunteer help (as needed).

Medical

  • The South Texas Blood and Tissue Center is asking for blood donations – http://bit.ly/2el217G
  • Trach Mommas of Louisiana – http://bit.ly/2grpecl
    Those who have extra pediatric medical supplies such as tracheostomy and ventilator supplies, feeding tubes, nebulizers, air purifiers, or specialty baby formula can help children with complex medical needs. Please email trachmommas@gmail.com

Pet Care and Animal Rescue

2) Advocate

After a month of recess, Congress will be back in session in September with lots of must-pass bills to deal with. First on that list must be responding to Hurricane Harvey. Members of Congress from the Texas delegation will be leading efforts to pass an aid package for Harvey, and below are ways that you can help make sure we have an appropriate response.

  • Demand immediate relief for areas affected by Harvey. Members of the Texas delegation are leading efforts to appropriate emergency relief for Houston, coastal Texas, and Louisiana. This is a national crisis and every Member of Congress should support aid for areas affected by Hurricane Harvey. Make sure that your MoCs do, too.
  • Resist funding cuts to disaster preparedness and response. Trump has called for massive cuts to FEMA, the coast guard, and other programs that are essential to prepare for and respond to disasters like Harvey. But funding is the job of Congress, so make sure your MoC doesn’t cut these important programs.
  • Rebuild Houston, not some stupid wall. We need infrastructure, medical help, jobs and economic security to rebuild Houston and the Gulf Coast, not a thousand mile long political posture for Trump’s white supremacist worldview. Demand your members of Congress supply federal funding to rebuild our cities and our communities—not for a costly and unnecessary wall.
  • Reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program. Even as Houston sits under water, Congress is unsure about whether it should reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program, which is intended to protect Americans from events like Harvey. Congress needs to not just reauthorize the program, but strengthen it.
  • Tropical Storm Harvey is real, so is climate change. We need a deliberative grassroots- driven plan that takes into account the strong likelihood of future climate disasters while taking action to avert the worst of the climate crisis. If Congress won’t address climate change, then we need to make sure our local and state governments are.

For more information on Indivisible’s Congressional asks please read Indivisible’s full explainer on how Congress should respond to Harvey here.

Lots of love,
Daniel