How to Help Victims of the Winter Storms in Texas

Every dollar helps, now more than ever.

By now you’ve heard all the buzzwords associated with the statewide disaster that has gripped Texas for the past several days: historic, unprecedented, catastrophic. Nearly everyone living in the state has experienced power outages, frozen pipes, burst pipes, and even flooding as a result of the sub-zero temperatures and multiple rounds of snow and ice. 

People have died. Many are still dealing with no heat or electricity. Ranchers are struggling to keep their cattle alive. And things could get much worse as the thawing begins and a whole new round of burst pipes threaten to damage homes all over the state. Appointments for plumbers are already stretching into mid-late March. People who were dealing with homelessness before the storm are at even greater risk now. Plus, coping with COVID-19 continues to complicate things and jeopardize the small strides some people and businesses were beginning to make. 

It can almost seem like too much. 

If you’re able to help out right now, it could mean the world to someone. Here are five easy ways.

The Salvation Army Texas
Courtesy of The Salvation Army Texas

Donate money to state organizations providing shelter, food, and other essentials

As people get displaced from their homes due to fires, floods from burst pipes, or simply because their houses are inhabitable due to lack of electricity in the sub-freezing temperatures, they need a place to go. Or they may need food because multi-day business closures are threatening their income. The Salvation Army of Texas has programs in place throughout the state.

Communities Foundation of Texas has set up a winter weather crisis relief fund. Feeding Texas has a comprehensive list of food banks across the state that you can search by zip code.

Donate money at the local level

In Austin, people can donate to Austin Mutual Aid, Caritas of Austin, or The Other Ones Foundation, which provides basic needs kits for those experiencing homeless. They’re also in need of donations of batteries, face masks, sleeping bags, and tents rated for weather below 30 degrees.

Dallas-area nonprofits, including Austin Street Center, OurCalling, Oak Lawn United Methodist Church, The Stewpot, and Union Gospel Mission have joined forces to pool funds to help get people into temporary shelters as well as provide rapid testing for COVID-19. Feed the People Dallas can also help. Buckner International needs donations to supply its warming center guests with essentials. And Family Place had a burst pipe that forced it to move 100 people to a safe place.

Volunteers are needed in Fort Worth to help with several events this weekend for the Tarrant County Food Bank.

Volunteer Houston is a great place to start looking for ways to help people affected in Houston. Mutual Aid Houston has started a GoFundMe for relief in H-Town, and Lucille’s 1913 Kitchen needs donations to help prepare and distribute meals.

Support warming centers through contributions

Who would’ve ever thought a warming center would be a reality in Texas, let alone dozens throughout the state. Multiple warming centers have been established to help people without power warm up, charge their devices, and possibly grab a snack or meal. The American Red Cross is helping with cots and blankets. The Texas Division of Emergency Management has a running map indicating where warming centers can be found, or citizens can call 877-541-7905 or 2-1-1 for more information. 

Check on your neighbors

If you live in Texas, one of the easiest ways you can help others is by checking in on neighbors, especially the elderly, to make sure they have food and methods to stay warm. Even though the storm has passed, the danger has not. If their pipes are frozen and you have access to bottled water or can fill up jugs to deliver to them, that’s a great need, as well. If you’re out of state, call to check on anyone living in Texas to see if they’re OK. Many people are too proud to ask for help or may not realize how dire their situation could get without assistance. 

Support local businesses

Many businesses were closed much of this week, losing a great deal of money when they need it the most after a year of hardships. Consider ordering takeout from local restaurants if you feel safe getting out onto the roads. If you want delivery, consider calling the restaurant to find out if they have their own in-house delivery services so their already slim margins aren’t going right to third-party delivery services. And, of course, tip as well as you can.

Steven Lindsey is a Thrillist contributor.