After floods ravage region, Catholic Charities lead joint relief efforts

July 12, 2016

HOUSTON — As many families continue to struggle in the aftermath of this spring’s devastating floods, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston is helping them deal with the long road back to normal life.

When the floods hit in April, devastating the Greenspoint area of Houston, the City of Houston called on Catholic Charities to work with the 150 families to ensure their needs were met during the transition from Red Cross shelter to hotel to housing. That number grew to 173 families, totaling 553 individuals.

“Many families lost everything — including their only vehicle, all their belongings and treasured personal mementos,” said Natalie Wood, Catholic Charities vice president for Strengthening Families and Senior Services. “They were in shock and unsure how to move forward. Our case managers ensured they had hot meals, housing arrangements, medications, transportation, school plans for their children, benefits information — whatever they needed to get their lives back on track.”

Members of the Churches of Christ disaster services prepared hot meals to be delivered once a day in addition to the hotel’s continental breakfast. Other organizations that provided aid include the Texas Baptist Men, Texas Baptist Disaster Recovery, United Way and several Parishes throughout Houston.

“It has been wonderful to see people of faith helping people in need,” said Cynthia N. Colbert, MSW, president and CEO. “Our goal is to provide help and create hope for people in Greater Houston. Our work is especially meaningful during this special Year of Mercy.”

More than 17,000 Harris County households have registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) due to flood-related losses from the April floods alone. Assigned by the City of Houston to more than 95 families in need of case management, Catholic Charities ensured that each person they came in contact with was more than a face in a crowd.

The clients’ stories are varied, and each situation requires a combination of services to meet the family’s needs. For example, a couple and their children from Cincinnati, Ohio, came to Houston to take care of their grandmother who had recently undergone surgery. When the storm hit on Tax Day, their temporary apartment was destroyed along with their belongings and means of transportation. With their grandmother’s apartment damaged as well, the family was relocated to a shelter with no way of returning home. Through the help of Catholic Charities — providing temporary housing, food and basic necessities — the family was able to take a Greyhound bus back to Ohio, and the grandmother’s apartment repairs were completed.

Another family from the Greenspoint area of Houston lost everything, including their source of income. The floods destroyed their apartment complex and only vehicle, leaving a father of four, including twins with autism, unable to get to work. His lack of transportation led to his termination, and with that, the only income came from the children’s disability and a minimal amount of food assistance benefits. The children’s asthma medication was lost during the flooding as well. Catholic Charities provided the family gift cards generously donated by Kroger so they could purchase the needed medication as well as gas and groceries. 
Catholic Charities hosted a Clothing and Home Fair at the main downtown facility so that Greenspoint individuals and families affected by the floods could gather basic necessities. Families received bedding, clothing, food, household supplies, and pots and pans — all things to fill a new home they received in partnership with the City of Houston Housing Department, using a Section 8 housing voucher. 

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo said, “Our Catholic community has come together in remarkable ways, with Catholic Charities partnering with parishes through the Archdiocese as well as with many other religious organizations. People have shown compassion and care at every turn, demonstrating the love of Christ and clearly respecting the dignity of the human person. The flood response partnerships are a wonderful illustration of how we should live in this Year of Mercy — and always.