By now, most of the four million Texans who lost power during the extreme winter storm and subsequent blackouts have been able to turn the heat and lights back on. But roughly 200,000 are still shivering, and millions more have lost access to clean water. Even for those who’ve had all utilities restored, the recovery is just beginning.
In the last week, one disaster has only led to the next: frozen water pipes burst and flooded homes; families attempting to keep warm suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning; store shelves went bare as people rushed to stock up on food and supplies; and those who let their pipes drip ran up water demand before citywide boil notices were put in place. Though temperatures will rise this weekend, Texans across the state are still freezing, hungry, wet, and displaced. Here are some ways you can help out.
To Help Financially
Perhaps one of the best ways to offer aid is by donating to a mutual aid fund. These grassroots organizations allow neighbors to support each other based on their individual needs. You can donate to Mutual Aid Houston, DFW Mutual Aid, Austin Mutual Aid, Para Mi Gente, Feed the People DTX, Trinity Mutual Aid, and many more across the state.
To Help Those in Need of Home Repairs
In Houston, the nonprofit West Street Recovery is working to clean out flooded homes and make other repairs. In Austin, Meals on Wheels has a home repair program for seniors, veterans, and those living with disabilities. You can donate, sign up to volunteer, or apply on behalf of someone you know at this link. Your local Habitat for Humanity chapter may also have a similar program, such as this one in Austin.
To Help the Displaced and Homeless
Whether they were previously unhoused before the storm or they’ve been forced out of their homes by burst pipes or no heat, thousands of Texans are in need of a warm, dry place to stay. In Austin, residents can sign up to volunteer at cold-weather shelters, while those with four-by-four or off-road vehicles are encouraged to volunteer to help transport people and supplies. Residents who have power and heat have opened up their homes to friends and neighbors without consistent energy, but Airbnb also has Open Homes, a disaster relief program that allows people to offer their homes to strangers in need of emergency housing. In San Marcos, Home Center is working to get unhoused people into motels in the area. The Coalition for the Homeless, based in Houston, also has a resource guide listing organizations helping those experiencing homelessness, including agencies accepting donations of coats, blankets, and other winter gear.
To Help the Hungry
Feeding Texas, a network of food banks across the state, is accepting donations to help feed Texans and distribute clean drinking water through this crisis. If you’re in the Rio Grande Valley, you can donate funds and the most-needed food items to the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley for its Winter Storm Assistance Food & Fund Drive. North Texas Food Bank reopened Thursday, February 18, at noon, and volunteers are needed for the Pandemic Mobile Pantry beginning Saturday, February 20. Funky Town Fridge, which provides food to Fort Worth neighborhoods, is also accepting donations. The Houston Food Bank will be open for volunteers to help sort food on Friday, February 19.
To Help Children and the Elderly
In you’re in the Houston area, you can donate or sign up to volunteer with Kids’ Meals Inc., an organization that provides meals to hungry kids year-round. In Austin, pipes burst in two of the cottages for the children’s shelter at the SAFE Alliance, and the organization is in need of funds and supplies such as drinking water, nonperishable food, and wipes. CrowdSource Rescue is working to assist senior citizens and could use volunteers and donations.
To Help the Incarcerated
Incarcerated people, whether in prisons, jails, or immigrant detention centers, are freezing through the winter storm, as many have been stuck in facilities with no electricity, decent food, or safe drinking water. You can donate to organizations such as the Texas Jail Project, a nonprofit organization raising funds for commissary and phone accounts of incarcerated people. The Texas Inmate Families Association, which supports the relatives of those behind bars, could also use your help.
To Help Animals
Sea Turtle Inc., the South Padre Island nonprofit whose volunteers rescued 4,000 hypothermic turtles this week, could use your donation. Animal shelters and rescue groups across the state have also struggled to keep homeless critters warm and fed. Go to your local shelter’s Facebook page to see which items it needs, or make a donation online. Smaller organizations may be in particular need, such as Texas Panhandle Pet Savers and Pets Needing Parents Rescue in West Texas.
To Help Yourself
President Joe Biden has approved an emergency declaration for the state, and hopefully the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will soon arrive with promised generators and supplies, as well as information on who qualifies for financial support from the federal government. In the meantime, the Texas Division of Emergency Management has a map of warming centers across the state, and residents can also call 211 to find the warming center nearest you. You can request aid from many of the mutual aid organizations listed above, as well as from organizations such as the Texas NAACP. Beyoncé’s charity organization, Beygood, has partnered with Adidas to help anyone affected by the winter storms, in or outside of Texas, through the Bread of Life Inc. Disaster Relief Assistance fund.
If you’re looking for places to get food and water, HEB has a list of store hours and temporary closures, including Central Market locations. You can also search through a crowdsourced list of resources by twitter user @dox_gay. WhenWhereWhatAustin is keeping an updated spreadsheet of resources in the Austin area, including where people can get hot meals, water, and groceries.