After months of research on Houston disaster recovery systems, in which TMO leaders learned there had been little movement from nonprofit agencies servicing clients, TMO organized 10 Hurricane Harvey Home Repair & Unmet Need Intake Sessions drawing 275 survivors from their congregations. The popularity of the sessions revealed still-massive recovery needs, particularly in low-income communities. Nearly 80% of all attendees lacked an active case manager or any communication with a recovery group prior to attending the sessions. Leaders plan to put together more intake sessions, offering similar access to recovery resources, in hard-hit areas with great need.
In the face of constituent stories about bayou flooding, DACA, the need for mental health facilities and the power of Capital IDEA, candidates for federal, state and county office made public commitments on mental health, infrastructure/flooding mitigation, public education, immigration and more.
In Congressional District 29 & County Precinct 2...
250 leaders packed the parish hall at St. Leo the Great Catholic Church for a nonpartisan accountability assembly with candidates for CD 29 and Harris Co. Precinct 2. DACA recipient Ms. Puente shared that as a student and nearing young professional, she relies on DACA to live outside of the shadows, an essential element for a bright and successful future. Impressed with Ms. Puente’s story, and others like hers from Assumption Catholic Church, All Saints Catholic Church, and St. Andrews Episcopal Church, candidates committed to fight for a pathway for DREAMers at the federal level.
In Congressional District 7...
and joined by leaders from Faith City Church, Chapelwood United Methodist Church and Memorial Drive United Methodist Church, Congregation Beth Israel hosted a nonpartisan accountability assembly with 125 TMO leaders and candidates for CD 7. After hearing how the nearby bayou had wrecked surrounding neighborhoods during Hurricane Harvey, flooding for the third time in 3 years, candidates committed to championing Harvey recovery by bringing local, county, state, and federal entities together with TMO to expedite mitigation projects for this area.
In State House Districts 146 & 147...
nearly 100 TMO leaders from St. James’ Episcopal Church, Pilgrim Congregational UCC and Trinity East United Methodist Church assembled at St. James’ Episcopal to secure commitments from candidates for State House Districts 146 and 147. Mr. DuPont, a TMO leader and member of St. James’ Episcopal Church, expressed the need for more funding and oversight for mental health facilities in the area. The candidates agreed to work with TMO on understanding and improving these housing and mental health facilities.
In State House District 139...
close to 100 TMO leaders from Hope Episcopal Church and Santa Monica Catholic Church assembled at St. Andrew’s UMC to secure public commitments from state house district candidates to work with them on flood mitigation, infrastructure, public school, and immigration. Capital IDEA graduate, and Registered Nurse Tanesha Brown, shared how she went from making minimum wage to nearly six figures following her graduation from Capital IDEA. In emotional testimony, she thanked TMO and Capital IDEA for changing her life. Both candidates agreed to fight for $5 million dollars at the state level for Capital IDEA funding.
Many TMO leaders have been waiting to hear from case managers for more than 6 months given the insufficient number of case managers to support the unprecedented disaster of Hurricane Harvey. After hearing those stories, TMO decided to call on the City to increase capacity for Disaster Case Management as well as to improve coordination and transparency of the process.
TMO leaders spoke at City Council regarding the need for more case managers and also met with the Director of Housing and Community Development to follow up on this need. The City of Houston is now opening lines of communication for community members and nonprofit agencies through a series of public Hurricane Harvey Recovery meetings for each district in March.
Leaders from New Hope Missionary Baptist church knocked on doors in their neighborhood to listen to stories, sign up voters to TMO’s agenda of issues and encourage participation in the primary election. Leaders in the neighborhood expressed an appetite to clean up their neighborhood and fight for speed bumps and sidewalks.
TMO leaders lay out a strategy for nonpartisan voter education for increased voter participation in the March 2018 primary elections. The proposal was delivered at a TMO leaders meeting.
TMO clergy and leaders took to the podium to demand that their US Senators and Congressmembers resolve the crisis which has jeopardized the status of thousands of Houston-area DREAMers who have relied on DACA to build their lives.
Immigrant leaders testified, with personal stories, that a failure to compromise would not only harm families, it would undermine the capacity of the hospitals and health care systems that currently rely on their talent.
[Photo Credit: Maria de Jesus, Houston Chronicle]
Dreamers Feel They Are Americans Contributing to Church, Community, Texas Catholic Herald
'Dreamers' Say They're Not Asking for Handouts, Just Chance to Stay, Catholic Philly
As the 60-day deadline for FEMA appeals approaches, TMO leaders are fighting to get that deadline extended, in addition to educating members and the public about the appeals process. TMO is urging all Harvey survivors denied FEMA assistance to appeal as soon as possible.
[Photo Credit: Houston Public Media]
Advocates Tell Harvey Victims Not to Give Up if FEMA Denies Their Disaster Claims, Houston Public Media
Group Calls on Hurricane Harvey Victims to Appeal FEMA Aid Denials, Click 2 Houston
One month after TMO leaders and clergy publicly questioned why Red Cross Immediate Assistance funds were denied to thousands of families that met the criteria, the CEO of Red Cross Texas Gulf Division resigned among criticisms about undelivered aid. Within days, top leadership from Red Cross met with TMO to ensure that aid will be delivered to families in need.
One month ago, Helen Mott, a parishioner at Our Mother of Mercy, was denied $400 in cash assistance from Red Cross even though she had had to evacuate her uninhabitable home. Because Red Cross offered one of the few cash assistance resources available at the time, TMO organized a press conference at New Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, calling on them to ensure that families who needed these funds most would receive them.
At that press conference, TMO leader Charles Turner asked Red Cross to "take an extra step and work with community groups like ours and open up lines of communication so we can help people during this recovery process."
Red Cross is now responding to that challenge and expressing willingness to coordinate efforts with TMO. Red Cross estimates that approximately 1.5 million families might have been wrongfully denied and is now working to ensure that families that qualify for assistance receive the aid they need.
Building on last month’s achievement of making tenants’ rights a front-and-center issue in post-Harvey recovery, The Metropolitan Organization of Houston (TMO) leaders continue working with documented — and undocumented — immigrants to ensure their rights are protected.
Houston Mayor, Texas Senator Join TMO in Call on Landlords for Post-Harvey Grace Period for Renters, Univision, Telemundo & More
On October 6th, as thousands of Harvey survivors spent hours in line attempting to meet the deadline for emergency food aid, the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP), TMO leaders organized a press conference at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church to demand an extension of the deadline for families.
Said Fr. Simón Bautista, “For two days in a row [my parishioner] got in line at 6 a.m. and by the time she was seen, around 7 p.m., she was told that her last name was not being seen that day. She returned at 3 a.m. to find that 10 to 15 individuals were already in line. These individuals and families have been waiting in the heat, missing work and some still haven’t received the benefits.”
More than one week later, state officials announced a three-day extension of the deadline for families to enroll. TMO leaders expressed pleasure at the news of the extension, and recognized Congresswoman Sheila Jackson and Commissioner Rodney Ellis for their role in securing that extension.
Leaders are now celebrating that the three-day extension permitted more than 27,000 additional families to enroll in D-SNAP, resulting in the award of $27 Million in food aid for Harris County Harvey survivors .
Said Fr. Albert Zannatta, "Matthew 25:35 reads: for I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. These words of Christ spurred TMO to call for an extension....[and] TMO will continue to work until all have received the recovery they need."
Sheila Jackson Lee Celebrated for Her Involvement in Extending D-SNAP Services in Houston, KIAH Newsfix
State Health Officials Continue Harvey Food Assistance Program, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
TMO Demands Extension of Deadline for Harvey Victims to Sign Up for D-SNAP, Houston Public Media
Community Leaders Push for D-SNAP Extension, Click 2 Houston
Appeal for Aid on Behalf of Needy, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
TMO Press Statement