How to Donate Money and Other Aid to Communities of Color in Houston

By Ayana Byrd Aug 29, 2017

Four days after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, people in the southern parts of the state remain in dire need of help. Nine people have been confirmed dead and at least another foot of rain is expected to fall before the end of the week. Today (August 29), CNN reports that two levees have been breached in Brazoria County, south of Houston, and officials tweeted a warning that read, "Get out now!!" Houston police have rescued at least 3,400 people in the city, which has already had more than 30 inches of rain as a result of Harvey. 

Yesterday (August 28), former President Barack Obama tweeted his appreciation to everyone taking part in the rescue efforts and suggested that concerned people donate to the American Red Cross.


But the Red Cross—an organization that provides disaster relief and emergency assistance—has a controversial track record regarding how donations are used following natural disasters.

Per a previous Colorlines article, "an investigation by ProPublica and NPR in 2015 claimed the agency built only six homes with the $500 million it received in donations after the 2010 earthquake which devastated [Haiti]." And last year, after people in Louisiana were displaced by flooding, Colorlines reported that at a Baton Rouge Red Cross shelter, "volunteers had to pay for baby formula out of pocket—even though Red Cross received a truckload of it as a donation that could be distributed to the majority-Black population being housed there."

Fortunately, there are organizations whose focus is to provide assistance to communities of color and other groups that are disproportionately vulnerable in times of tragedy. Here, a partial list.

Organizations Focused on People of Color

The Black Women’s Defense League is a Dallas-based organization that is working with Houston activists to determine what underserved communities need. Click here for a list of supplies that can be donated; head here to donate money.

RAICES, a Texas-based nonprofit legal advocacy group, has been working with Texas shelters to find housing for woman and children stranded by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after being released from detention centers. Donate to them here. Unrelated to RAICES, but benefiting the same women and children, a San Antonio city council member has set up a collection to send clothing, toys and toiletries to them. You can mail boxes to the Collins Garden Library in San Antonio.

ICNA Relief, also known as Muslims for Humanity, is a nonprofit that has committed aid to residents of Southern Texas after the devastation of Harvey. Relief Fund benefits individuals and families who are victims of publicly declared disasters. Tom Joyner founded it following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and he has donated $20,000 to it in the wake of Harvey.

Living Hope Wheelchair Association serves populations with spinal cord injuries and other disabilities, and the bulk of their members are immigrants and low-wage workers. The organization has also been conducting direct rescues since the hurricane made landfall.

SHAPE Community Center says its organization aims to “improve the quality of life for people of African descent (all people) through programs and activities, with emphasis on unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.” Since the storm made landfall in Texas, it has mobilized to help the people of Houston stay safe and find shelter.

South Texas Human Rights Center is committed to keeping immigrant families intact and preventing migrant deaths along the Texas-Mexico border through community initiatives. The border—and those living on it—were in the direct path of Hurricane Harvey.

Organizations Helping Other Marginalized Communities

Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund was created by the mayor of Houston, Sylvester Turner, as a direct response to individuals and corporations asking how they could help the city. On Monday (August 28), Turner who is also a lawyer, announced in a press conference that he would personally represent any undocumented people who faced deportation as a result of seeking help because of the storm. 

The Way Home works to end homelessness in Houston, Harris County and Fort Bend County. It has partnered with a network of area shelters to achieve this. Donate directly to The Way Home or to its partners.

The Transgender Foundation of America has created a relief fund in the Houston-area for trans and intersex people, two groups who are often turned away from shelters during disasters.

Portlight assists people with disabilities who have medical needs or require shelter as a result of Hurricane Harvey.  

Texas Diaper Bank provides emergency diaper kits (which are not distributed by relief agencies) for babies, seniors and people with disabilities.

The Homeless Period Project of Austin distributes tampons, pads and other period-related items to those displaced by the storm.

*Story has been updated to reflect that the Collins Garden Library collection was not organized by RAICES.