The severe weather gripping much of the U.S. has left at least 59 people dead throughout the South and millions in Texas without heat, safe drinking water or electricity. Beyond the dire need for food and shelter, people will need assistance for months to come as they recover from homes flooded by frozen pipes and other side effects of the deep freeze.
Long-term needs will include rebuilding not only individual homes, but infrastructure such as roads, bridges and water mains, according to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. People with medical conditions, especially those who use oxygen machines and other electricity-powered equipment, and people who don’t speak English are particularly vulnerable, the Center noted on its website.
“As with most disasters, disaster experts recommend cash donations as they allow for on-the-ground agencies to direct funds to the greatest area of need,” the Center wrote in its guide to responding to the winter storms.
Here’s a look at how to help:
Donate to highly rated charities
The charity-rating site Charity Navigator has compiled a list of vetted national charities providing winter storm relief in Texas and across the South, and will continue to update the list.
Charity Navigator’s recommended organizations include the American Red Cross, which is operating warming shelters in Texas, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia. In addition to money, the Red Cross requests that people donate blood.
Also on the Charity Navigator list: Good360, Episcopal Relief and Development, Direct Relief, and Operation USA, a Los Angeles-based international disaster-relief agency, which noted on its website: “In addition to supporting people in the hardest hit communities, the best thing you can do to respond today is to reevaluate disaster risks in your own community, and ask yourself: Am I prepared? Actions you take now could improve your chances of survival and make recovery easier later.”
Find local groups working on the ground
The pandemic has sparked the creation of mutual-aid groups around the world. These neighborhood-based volunteer networks operate on the philosophy that people can help each other meet their own basic needs. To find ones working in Texas, check Mutual Aid Hub. Lists of Texas mutual-aid groups have also circulated on social media with the help of celebrities such as Alyssa Milano and in local publications like Texas Monthly magazine. Mutual Aid Houston is accepting donation through a GoFundMe page.
Community foundations, which give grants to nonprofits in a specific geographic area, are also a good resource for quickly finding organizations working on the ground. The Austin Community Foundation asked on Twitter that people consider donating to several groups including Austin Urban League and Austin Disaster Relief Network.
Communities Foundation of Texas, a Dallas-based community foundation, has set up a fund that will support nonprofits with long-term recovery needs. And the Dallas Foundation has a list of groups, including many helping people who need immediate shelter, that need cash donations but are also accepting warm clothes, blankets and other items.
Don’t forget about the indirect impacts — and causes — of weather disasters
About 80% of disaster donations happen within days of a natural disaster, according to research by the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. But other needs surface in the months that follow, including mental-health challenges for people who’ve lived through disasters. With that in mind, consider spacing out your donations and keeping some money aside to donate six months from now.
Also consider making donations that address some of the causes of extreme cold, such as climate change, says the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. Donating money to reforestation projects is one way; also consider “unconventional funding opportunities,” the Center says, like urban forestry and zero-emission public transit.