Over 200 people flooded out of their homes due to Hurricane Harvey gathered at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church Family Life Center in Rosenberg, Texas to learn their options and get input from the Fort Bend County engineer. Fr. Lee Flores, Lali García, Joe Reyes and Marleny Ayala organized and led such a meeting (for the first time) to help flood survivors evaluate whether they should rebuild, sell, or elevate their homes in the aftermath. Leaders are also researching a proposed levy considered by other neighborhoods.
As TMO leaders and clergy worked with families working to rebuild their lives after Hurricane Harvey, one issue they kept hearing about was confusion about Red Cross Immediate Assistance funds. Helen Mott, a parishioner at Our Mother of Mercy, was denied $400 in cash assistance from the Red Cross even though she had to evacuate her uninhabitable home.
Because the Red Cross offers one of the few cash assistance resources available at this time, TMO organized a press conference, at New Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, calling on them to ensure that families who need these funds most will receive them.
"We are asking that the Red Cross would clarify their application and appeals process. We also ask that the Red Cross would 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," explained TMO leader Dr. Charles Turner.
American Red Cross Representatives Respond to Why People Aren't Getting Approved for $400 Assistance Package, NewFix CW39
Red Cross under Fire From Flood Victims, Houston Public Media
Vulnerable Communities Respond to Hurricane Harvey
Following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey and loss of property and of work, CCHD-funded The Metropolitan Organization calls for a grace period for late rent payments in Houston. Read the NY Times story.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Texas Senator Sylvia García joined TMO in calling on landlords to extend a 30-day grace period and to refrain from charging renters’ fees and penalties following the devastation left by Hurricane Harvey.
Rev. Ed Gomez of St. Paul’s/San Pablo Episcopal Church shared stories of tenants who work in the service industry and, due to the storm, missed days of work and are now unable to pay their rent at this time. "People are not asking for a handout but a hand up as we get through this difficult time," he said.
[Photo Credit: Al Ortiz, Houston Public Media]
Turner Asks Houston Landlords to Grant One Month Grace Period to Renters, Houston Public Media (NPR)
Mayor Turner Names Former Shell CEO as Recovery Czar, Houston Press
In response to TMO's call for mercy from landlords threatening to evict residents, in the form of a 45-day grace period for renters without penalties, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced he would carefully analyze the issue. He also called on landlords to grant renters time to come up with the rent.
Three TMO leaders testified at City Hall: Raul Ramirez of St. Leo The Great Catholic Church, Rev. Simón Bautista, Christ Church Cathedral Church and Rev. Edward Gomez of St. Paul's Episcopal Church /Iglesia Episcopal San Pablo.
Late Fees Add Problems for Tenants Who Missed Out on Work During Harvey, Houston Public Media
Landlords Still Charging Harvey Victims Rent for Destroyed Homes, Death and Taxes
Acting on stories they heard in outreach efforts around church neighborhoods, 70 leaders from 10 member institutions of TMO convened a Saturday morning press conference to call on landlords to grant a three-week (minimum) grace period for renters in the area and across Harris County.
TMO leaders report that pastors are afraid of evictions for not being able to pay rent, due to a week without work caused by Hurricane Harvey. This loss of income is devastating to families and evictions will exacerbate financial hardships and instability during this recovery period.
Fr. Ed Gomez of San Pablo Episcopal Church and his members have visited ten surrounding apartment complexes to urge landlords for grace periods, but not all landlords have agreed. If mortgage companies can give lenders 90 days to get back on their feet, leaders argue, then surely landlords can give at least two weeks.
TMO called on the Mayor and Council to urge landlords not to exploit community members when all are recovering from the unprecedented storm together. Leaders also called on Mayor Turner and Judge Emmitt to create a public works strategy that will hire people who are unemployed to do the massive cleanup that is needed.
Some Apartment Dwellers Face Post-Harvey Eviction, Houston Chronicle
Facebook Live (video)Read more
Thank you for all of your calls of concern and your prayers on behalf of TMO organizers and leaders. We are weathering a storm of epic proportions, an 800 year event! Hurricane Harvey is surpassing ALL other flood events. Thousands here have evacuated and many, many more are being rescued and sheltered as this is being written. Surrounding areas of Dickinson, Rosenberg, Conroe, portions of Houston, and the communities of Sienna Plantation and First Colony are under mandatory evacuation.
As for the organizers, Willie and Maria are stuck in neighborhoods surrounded by water; Sheyda Brown is on the fourth floor of the apartment complex but water has reached on top of first floor; and Mario Duran’s car is under water and his mother had to be rescued by boat. Elizabeth was working out of town and is not able to fly back because both airports are closed.
More than 1,300 leaders from TMO assembled at Assumption Catholic Church to clarify the impact of anti-immigrant Senate Bill 4. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez responded to questions and concerns raised by leaders, as did Houston Police Department Assistant Chief Lori Bender and Carolina Ortuzar-Diaz, an immigration attorney from Manny Ramirez Law Firm.
[Photo Credit: Douglas Pierre]
In response to the aftermath in Charlottesville, Va., a group of Houston area faith leaders have written the following commentary.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” These are foundational words upon which this country was built and the creed which Americans are to believe and live by. There is no room for hate and bigotry with these words. These words are inclusive of all men — white, black, brown, educated, uneducated, rich and poor, people of faith and of no faith.
In light of the horrific events in Charlottesville, Va., and elsewhere, and under the veil of weak support from the White House to condemn bigotry, anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia, we wish to lift up our voices and represent our faith traditions in concert with American values we all cherish....
We Must Link Arms in Pursuit of a Loving Nation, Houston Chronicle
Nearly 80 Spanish-speaking leaders from the Houston area learned about the mission of the church, and their responsibility as leaders to put their faith in action, in training delivered by TMO in collaboration with the Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).
Pope Francis’ words to the 2nd World Gathering of Popular Movements provided inspiration to the group:
“Quisiera volver a unir mi voz a la de ustedes: tierra, techo y trabajo para todos nuestros hermanos y hermanos. Lo dije y lo repito: son derechos sagrados. Vale la pena luchar por ellos.”