Life 30 Days After Harvey
Today I sat in with the one case manager we have assigned to Flood Relief. The phone rang nonstop, the cases were piled high on the shelf behind her, others were stacked on the chair next to her.
Her first interview was with Mrs. A, a woman in her 30's that lives in a one bedroom trailer with her husband and her son. She showed us videos of the water rushing in to the trailer, of their one vehicle under water and when we asked her where she and her family went until the waters receded, she said they never left. When she was asked if they had removed the carpet and sheet rock along with all the other items that had been flooded, she said they don't belong to her so they can't remove them. The owner has not come to make repairs.
When asked why she didn't look for somewhere else to live, she said the rents have all gone up since the flood and they can not afford to move. They were barely getting by with the lights and the rent where they are. She went on to describe how her ten year old son has developed a very bad cough. When she made the bed this morning, she found black mold in the folds of the blanket. She talked about how they find snakes, frogs and fish in the trailer on a regular basis. They find it hard to sleep and her legs ache from walking around in the dampness.
The case manager explained that if Mrs. A and her family could find an affordable place to move to within three days and bring us a copy of the contract, we would be able to help with the deposit, the first month's rent and some furniture to get them stabilized and if they can get the vehicle towed to get a repair estimate, we could help with the car repair so they can continue to work. The conservative estimate to help this family of three is approximately $4,000.
Up until last Friday, the majority of large donations that we have rec'd have been restricted to direct help to clients. Without funds for overhead, our organization is solely dependent on volunteers to help with clerical and to conduct interviews. While hundreds of volunteers were on hand in the few days following Harvey, since Labor Day, the numbers have trickled tremendously. Most of our trained case managers that are currently on staff are paid for by grants that restrict their activity to what the grant was issued for, meaning we can not pull staff from other areas to help over the next several months for Relief work.
The largest block of Relief Funding received, requires data entry for every case into our system and into the database required by the funder. The grant restricts us to $1000 per household. There is no money to cover the cost of clerical help or case management.
Since August 29th, our agency has assisted more than 6000 individuals with food, clothing, cleaning supplies, rent, car repairs, furniture, etc. while assisting with referrals for other much needed help such as medical for asthma, uncontrolled life threatening illnesses such as diabetes, infections and flood related illnesses caused by dirty flood waters and mold.
We know that thousands of families just in northwest Harris County alone need our help but at this rate, we project current funding will be exhausted by November. We have spent close to $100,000 this month on direct assistance.
The cost to nonprofit organizations like ours is in staff time in unseen areas such as paying the grants writers to obtain funding, the Accounting staff to record expenses, disburse payments and create monthly financials to account for the funds, the staff to record donations and send out tax letters, staff to sort through and distribute the mountains of clothing and food donations since Harvey. This must occur in addition to the regular flow of expenditures for all of the regular daily programs and services that feed seniors, provide medical care to children, help families experiencing domestic violence, provide adult education and job training, etc.
So if you are thinking you'd still like to help, volunteer one day a week in our Relief Assistance program to answer the phones, make calls, help interview, file cases, sort donations or unload trucks. If you do not have the time, but would like to give, give an unrestricted gift so we can put it where it is needed most. To learn more, go to www.namonline.org.