My boyfriend, Jarod and I love Texas. We’d spent months looking forward to spending a week over Valentine’s Day in Austin seeing a few of our favorite musicians, visiting our favorite honky-tonks, buying new boots (hello Tecovas), eating all the tacos and taking in some sunshine.
Thankfully, we were able to fly home on Feb. 18 after being stranded in Austin for several days. We were so lucky that we were able to board a plane and just leave. However, millions in Texas do not have the means to do that and are truly stranded.
We will never forget how dire things really were in a snowstorm that wouldn’t have even closed our schools here in Indiana. The difference is that Texas has no means to deal with this kind of weather. There are very few plows with even less salt. Homes are not properly insulated because it’s so rare to experience these cold temperatures, and the infrastructure of their power grid is failing under the intense strain. Even people whose power had not gone out from the storm were being impacted by the rolling blackouts to conserve the grid and a lack of water from frozen pipes and boiling orders.
The roads were a solid sheet of ice. Gas stations, pharmacies, grocery stores, restaurants, EVERYTHING was closed. Food supply trucks could not make deliveries. Locals checked into hotels as they lost power, only to have the hotels lose power as well. We struggled to find food to eat, drinkable water, and gas. (To the point that we had to pay $57 for two grilled cheese sandwiches from the hotel because that was all we could find for the day.)
We needed to drive nearly 200 miles from Austin to Dallas to be able to catch a flight out. We had to find gas to fill our rental car but wasted gas trying to find a station that was open. After six closed stations, we found one. The pumps were nearly empty, and it took us 15 minutes to get 3 gallons of gas before the supply ran out.
We eventually found another gas station to properly fill-up the tank but had no idea if we would even locate one when we started our journey. We went in to use the bathroom and all of the toilets were frozen. Cars and trucks were broken down all along the road, with random car parts scattered all over the three-lane iced highway. People were walking along the highway. SUVs lost control in front of us and spun into the center divider. Semi-trucks were jackknifed and stuck all along the highway, trying to deliver supplies to people who desperately needed them.
I’m a kid of the eighties, so I grew up on Mr. Rogers. I’ve always found comfort in his quote that in difficult times, we should “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” This crisis is no different. We met so many amazing Texans going out of their way to help others.
So now it’s our turn to be the helpers. Texans need us – even as warmer temperatures come, the damage to homes will take months to repair. Many people have been displaced and are struggling with food insecurity. Even as people regain power, there is a critical lack of water. Landmark businesses who have struggled to keep their doors open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic are now facing additional costs due to damage from the storm.
A lot of us are asking the question: How can we help?
We’ve compiled some resources and lists to local organizations, shelters, food banks, and funds that are providing a lifeline to Texans during the disaster:
- You can donate directly to a mutual aid fund working to provide food, housing, and sustainable support systems for those in need. Check out organizations such as Mutual Aid Houston, Austin Mutual Aid, or Feed the People Dallas.
- Find a food bank in Texas to support. Feeding Texas has a comprehensive list of food banks across the state, searchable by zip code.
- The Black/LatinX women-led collective, Feed the People DFW is a mutual aid, grassroots organization that aims to feed Dallas + Fort Worth Residents. Check out their Amazon Wishlist or donate directly to their fund.
- You can support four legged friends through Austin Pets Alive!, SPCA of Texas, and Operation Kindness.
- National organizations like the Salvation Army and American Red Cross in North Texas, Central and South Texas, and the Gulf Coast region of Texas are on the ground providing Texans with relief.
- Ending Community Homelessness Coalition compiled a list of groups providing relief for unsheltered Texans in Austin and Travis County.
- In Austin, the area Urban League has started the #LoveThyNeighborTX campaign to raise money for hotel rooms, food, water, clothing and other basic needs of the housing insecure communities.
- To help the incarcerated population, you can donate to organizations such as the Texas Jail Project, a nonprofit organization raising funds for commissary and phone accounts of incarcerated people. The Texas Inmate Families Association, which supports the relatives of those behind bars, could also use your help.