Q: How can I contribute to local disaster relief efforts for the most vulnerable Houstonians?
A: By radically compassionate giving to our relief campaign – THEN Amplify. Share. Tweet. Use our hashtags.
The Houston Mennonite Church (HMC), a 501(c)3 community partner in Deportation Defense, has agreed to serve as our fiscal sponsor. 100% of funds raised will directly benefit undocumented immigrant families (minus the 2.9% + $0.30 credit card transaction fee from YouCaring).
Relief for Houston's UndocuFamilies Weathering Many Storms
United We Dream - Houston (UWD) and Pantsuit Republic (PSR) have started a campaign to offer direct aid to specific undocumented families who are unable to access FEMA through citizen household family members. UWD is an organization led by undocumented immigrant youth. PSR is a postpartisan progressive feminist Texas ally. These families will invariably bear the burden of Harvey harder and longer than others, with fewer resources for disaster recovery and as they concurrently grapple with the personal and economic insecurity created by laws like SB4 (a racist and anti-immigrant law stopped temporarily by an injunction but still very much alive in the courts) and threats to DACA (a law that enables undocumented youth to work), led by the Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
HASHTAGS: #undocuhope #united4Texas #weatheringthestorms #heretostay
Funds will be offered on a first come, first serve basis, initially to families within the United We Dream, Pantsuit Republic, and Houston Mennonite Church networks. To qualify, families must be ineligible for FEMA and must have sustained property loss or damage and lost wages. These funds can be used for housing, food, or clothing, but ultimately this is at the discretion of the families who know their own needs best. We hope to empower them to rally their immense strength and resilience during this very difficult time. We originally aimed to raise $10,000 per family, but commit to $5,000 at this time*, in order to serve a greater number of people. Can our progressive allies in drier parts of Texas, across the country, and even internationally help us?
THE HUERTA FAMILY. As Hurricane Harvey hit Houston last Friday, it also devastated Pasadena and its many immigrant families. One of our United We Dream Houston members, Jessica H., has been displaced from her apartment home after it was flooded. Her family of five watched as their apartment filled up with water and its walls came apart. During this time, Jessica’s father hit his head when he slipped and though the family called 911, there were no hospitals open at the time to treat him. Jessica and her family have been staying with a family friend since Sunday and will not be able to return to their home for weeks. While her father recovers from his concussion, he will not be able to work and it will be up to Jessica’s mother to support the family with a minimum wage job as a cook. Jessica dreams of going to nursing school. While college is now on hold for her, she and her family remain determined to recover and thrive after Hurricane Harvey.
THE GARCIA FAMILY. Rocio lives with her parents and sister. Hurricane Harvey started with a hard rain at her home north of Houston, the water leaking from ceilings resulting ultimately in profound damage to most rooms of her house. On Saturday night, with everyone asleep, water coursed through the first floor, waking her father, who emergently alerted his family to evacuate. The National Guard did not arrive until Monday. And in the meantime, with looting on the street, the Garcia family elected to stay put to protect their home. They have spent the last several days cleaning up the mess that Harvey has left in its wake. Rocio’s mother operates a small refreshment stand close to home but will be out of work, as the area remains without electricity. Her father does flooring installment, which will be helpful as their repair damages to their own home, but they have no resources to buy the materials. Rocio’s entire family is undocumented, and her parents in particular, fear disclosure of their status. Rocio is a United We Dream member who is DACAmented and unafraid, a full-time student at University of Houston Downtown and working full-time, also, at a men’s boardroom salon. While most of Houston will not return to work or school until after Labor Day, Rocio is eager to get back today.
KARINA AND URBANO. Karina and Urbano are undocumented and on Temporary Protected Status, respectively. They had been living in an apartment prone to flooding in Southwest Houston and lost all of their belongings during Hurricane Harvey. They remain without transportation and are living with a member of their church community. Urbano had until recently been working in Mississippi as a painter on a contract job with his brother. When asked if he is a painter, Karina mentions he flexibly assumes many roles in construction work. As the contract in Mississippi was concluding, and Urbano was anyway having difficulty with managing his high blood pressure and (perhaps not unrelated) was unhappy with the intense anti-immigrant sentiment he faced where he was, he chose to return home to his wife last Wednesday and was looking for employment as Harvey hit. Karina has been a stay at home wife, but has experience working in dry cleaning. As both are physically able to work and face a mountain of costs to replace and repair lost and damaged items, they will both seek employment in the coming weeks, as the rest of Houston recovers.
THE PERALES FAMILY. Mr. Perales lives in Southeast Houston with his wife, DACAmented daughter, another daughter, and nearly 15 year-old wheelchair bound son with cerebral palsy. During the storm over the weekend, the family had some health concerns regarding his son, but they feared calling 9-1-1 due to their immigration status. They waited until this Wednesday to get him evaluated at Texas Chilren’s Hospital. The entire Perales home flooded with 1-3 feet of water, and the family had no option but to stay in the home. Everything was destroyed. They are currently living with family friends. Mr. Perales works for a pipe company, while his wife stays home to care for their differently abled child. His 22 year-old daughter has DACA at the moment, but this is being actively threatened. Mr. Perales expects to get back to work as soon as his company has recovered. The Perales story is precisely why laws like SB4 and threats to DACA result in an entirely inhumane situation for families living and working in this country in quiet times (when the problem goes unnoticed but also) especially in times of crisis.
THE GUEVARA FAMILY. Mrs. Guevara is a DACAmented United We Dream member. She is 37 weeks pregnant and lives in Southeast Houston with her husband. On Saturday, the lakes around their first floor apartment overflowed into their apartment home, the level quickly rising, requiring that Mrs. Guevara be carried by her husband to a second floor apartment of friends. They lost almost all of their possessions, including their vehicle, and are currently staying at her mother’s house. Mrs. Guevara is a full-time student at University of Houston, studying psychology. Her husband works in sales at a souvenir store and looks forward to providing for the new addition to his family. The Guevara's have great hopes for their first child but find themselves struggling in the weeks before delivery.
THE RODRIGUEZ** FAMILY. Fredy and his wife were eagerly anticipating their first child when Hurricane Harvey hit. They woke up on Sunday to a flooded apartment parking lot. On Monday, water was being released from the reservoir nearby. By Tuesday, they were trapped and had lost their vehicle. Their son was born on Thursday. Friends have provided temporary shelter, but these circumstances have been especially trying for his wife, in the days following delivery. Fredy is also rightly concerned about exposures for his unvaccinated newborn. Here on political asylum from Venezuela for the last year, Fredy and his wife are ‘unqualified aliens' for FEMA. Their baby is a U.S. Citizen, but it will take another 4-6 weeks to receive aid through his status. Fredy will be out of work for at least 2-3 weeks, as his company recovers. Amid the chaos, is a beautiful generosity and commitment to community. Fredy has calculated that his family’s immediate needs amount to less than the full amount of this grant, and he is eager to share the rest with another family in need. He is committed also to paying forward what he views as a debt to those who have rallied for his family by getting more involved when back on his feet in the next month.
THE UNDOCUQUEER** FAMILY. UndocuQueer (UQ) is a nonprofit organization whose founder is an undocumented trans latina poderosa. She is a member of the Pantsuit Republic (unapologetically feminist) community. UQ serves 20+ trans women who have been temporarily displaced amid an already painful perpetual social displacement. Many of these women live in transient housing and are involved in informal economies, but nonetheless, like much of the rest of Houston, have suffered from loss of property and income from Hurricane Harvey. Many would not consider UQ a family or a gift to a nonprofit direct aid. But, when these women are marginalized and continually displaced, UQ IS family. And UQ pledges to deliver 100% in direct aid to these women with the funds we provide to the UQ family. The organizers of this fund comprise a disruptive coalition. We discard norms in the name of justice.
MARIA'S FAMILY. Maria was with her wheelchair bound cousin and five U.S. citizen children, ages 12, 11, 10, and 9 year old twins in their trailer when Hurricane Harvey hit. The entire trailer and her two cars were inundated. While she rents the trailer from the park, the owners are not responsible for repairing or replacing damage sustained inside. She has had to tear out all the carpeting and discard, per City of Houston recommendations, everything that has been touched by the contaminated water. She has no alternative but to continue living at this trailer park for the moment. Maria’s husband, a dedicated volunteer with the Living Hope Wheelchair Association in Houston, passed away one year ago of a stroke at the age of 43, and she is the only source of income for the household. She has been back at work at a Taqueria since Tuesday of last week.
THE ARZATE FAMILY. Ms. Arzate and her family are in a dire straits. The floods destroyed much of their belongings and rendered their apartment home completely unlivable. Nonetheless, the family has been unable to move and continue to live in a space with mold festering, as they have nowhere else to go. Ms. Arzate and her husband are both undocumented and have 7 children, one of whom is wheelchair-bound and gets sick easily. They have already had to take him in once to the emergency room due to his exposures at home. The family will move to a new apartment on September 20th, . Although fate has not been kind to them, Araceli and her husband continue to work to makes ends meet and look forward to rebuilding their home and continue supporting their children.
THE MANUEL FAMILY. The Manuel family lives in a small Southeast Texas community about two hours east of Houston. They evacuated their home due to massive flooding in surrounding areas and discovered days later, when the water rescinded enough to drive through the streets, that they had lost most all their belongings inside and outside their home. Ms. Manuel’s daughter has gone to live temporarily with her boyfriend, while she and her husband have since moved back into the house, which reeks of mold. The family is attempting to keep some costly items inundated with contaminated water, after allowing them to dry. Meanwhile, as the local water crisis delayed businesses from opening for several days, the family has been without income.
THE VILLA FAMILY. The house is a complete disaster. I have a husband and two girls and a baby on the way. I am feeling very stressed and overwhelmed. Our home got 4 feet of water. Nearly everything was destroyed, including our cars. As water started coming in, and we worried about becoming trapped in the house, we called 911. No one responded. My husband and I walked through waist-high water with my baby girl (8 months) and my oldest (age 4) on top of the kitchen counter to collect a few things. It was the scariest moment of my life. A city dump truck rescued us at 3a, and we are safe now with my parents and beginning to assess the full extent of our losses. And then to compound these problems, one week after Harvey, they announce the discontinuation of DACA. I've lived in Texas since I was six years old. I am able to work because of DACA. As staff at a local hospital, while struggling personally, I never got a break during or after the storm. The hospital never closes.
THE CORONA FAMILY. Ms. Corona is a single mother who lives with her family in a small city east of Houston. She takes care of her two U.S. citizen children. Two years ago, she lost her first child to a heart condition. Her second is a daughter who is 20 years old and has a genetic heart condition for which she is currently hospitalized. The third, who is only 12, also has a cardiac abnormality. The family lost their home and vehicle and had to cancel a doctor’s appointment, when they found themselves without transportation after the storm. This week, Ms. Corona was able to get her daughter to the hospital for an evaluation. Ms. Corona also helps to care for her elderly grandmother and her single brother, who also lost everything in the storm. She works part time at a restaurant to support her family.
THE FERNANDEZ FAMILY. Because of the incredible fear that our undocumented families experience (even with US citizen children), they are not requesting disaster relief despite unlivable conditions. Ms. Fernandez cares for her four children (one is an infant), now as a single parent. Her husband was deported very recently, after being pulled over for a traffic violation. She has great suspicion of those offering to help her, as she fears that any admission of her immigration status could result in her deportation and effectively orphan her children. Hurricane Harvey struck weeks after Ms. Fernandez’s husband was deported. The leak in the roof of her apartment destroyed nearly all of their possessions. With chronic disc disease, Ms. Fernandez sleeps on a wet mattress and remains without resources for an evaluation of her back injury.
THE TAMAYO FAMILY. Areli is an undocumented and unafraid organizer from Pasadena, Texas. On Saturday night, the rain started to flood her street, gradually reaching unprecedented levels. Her father and younger brother left to assist a neighbor with his home, when water began seeping through their front door, inundating everything. Furniture, walls, a vehicle, and other property were destroyed. Her father did not work for three weeks, and Areli was unable to return to her job for two. She is now back at work and otherwise gutting her house, and committed as ever to fight the converging storms in our state.
*To be equitable and transparent, through September 7, 2017, we will grant $5,000 per household for undocumented families not qualifying for FEMA. If we have raised more than we are able to confirm qualifying families by that date, we will open the grants up to mixed status families within the United We Dream, Pantsuit Republic, and Houston Mennonite Church networks who do qualify for FEMA. We will close the fundraiser on September 14, 2017.
** The names used in this story are pseudonyms to protect the identify of the family at their request.
***As of 9.3.17, the fundraising goal has been increased to $50,000 to serve more families still.
****As of 9.7.17, the fundraiser opens to mixed status families, of which we have many more than what we can currently support. We have increased our goal to $100,000.