Let's All Do Something to Help Houston Come Back from Harvey

This article is being updated to include additional Harvey relief efforts in San Francisco. If you know of a benefit that should be included, email rockytstyle@gmail.com

Twelve years ago, I was biding my time at my parents’ home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana while  Hurricane Katrina did its worst. Since I grew up in Louisiana, I knew how to weather a storm. My parents’ house sat high enough that we were unlikely to flood. My dad borrowed a generator from my uncle, so we had lights and fans intermittently throughout the storm. I had battery-powered lanterns and flashlights, and a pile of law books. I read for classes and worked on outlines.

For me, Katrina was an inconvenience. Roads were flooded and I lost consistent electricity for a week. Sixty miles away, in New Orleans, people were lucky to survive.

Over the last few days, as Tropical Storm Harvey has battered Houston, I’ve been thinking about the people who fled to Texas after Katrina because living below sea level in New Orleans no longer seemed worth the risk. I wonder how many of them are surveying flooded homes again, and questioning where to move next.

Of course, Harvey isn’t finished wreaking havoc. The rain has moved back to Louisiana, where—once again—the state will be pounded by storms.

Here in San Francisco, it’s hard to imagine what folks in Harvey's wake are going through. Thousands of Texas homes, offices, and schools are under water. A college friend from Houston checked in with me today, saying that she and her kids are among the fortunate. They’ve moved upstairs in their house, but—unlike many of their neighbors—they are safe and they don’t need to evacuate. “I'm not sure what people outside Houston are seeing, but it is worse than I could imagine,” she wrote.

If there’s a redeeming element to a devastating storm, it’s the outpouring of support from strangers; people around the country will donate their time and money when disaster strikes. After Katrina, I remember working alongside a group of Tennessee volunteers who had driven 13 hours to distribute food, water, and supplies to displaced residents. Just as it has done following past storms, Louisiana's Cajun Navy is hauling boats across state lines and into the flood waters to help. Rogue sportsmen navigating a temporary bayou in a storm may sound ridiculous, but these volunteers save hundreds of lives. They are heroes.

You don’t have to own a boat or wade through standing water to help people who suffered Harvey’s wrath. First, you can donate money, or match donations if you’re fortunate enough to have extra deep pockets. Both Google and Facebook have offered to match $1 million in donations, (H/T SFist).  Facebook has pledged up to $1 million in matching donations made through their site to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. (Look for the ”donate” button at the top of CDP’s Facebook page.) Google has its own disaster relief page, pledging to match $1 million in donations to Network For Good. Airbnb is waiving service fees for bookings, and facilitating free homes for residents displaced by the storm. Hopefully other Bay Area companies will follow their leads.

If you're looking for more donation options, Refinery 29 assembled a roundup of organizations ready to distribute funds, including the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, (set up by the mayor of Houston to facilitate storm recovery), Portlight, (an organization helping disabled residents affected by the storm), and the Animal Defense League, which is helping rescue pets. You can see the full Refinery list here.

According to a post on their Instagram account, Sausalito-based shoe brand Freda Salvador is donating 200 pairs of shoes to the Harvey Relief Effort through Soles for Souls, and is collecting clothing at both its San Francisco store (2416 Fillmore Street) and Sausalito headquarters (80 Liberty Ship Way) through close of business on Wednesday, August 30. You can bring gently-used clothes to either location before 6 pm today. 

(Updated 8/30/2017 at 5 pm) SoulCycle is hosting a Harvey Relief class at its Union Street studio on Saturday, September 2, at 2 pm. All proceeds from the class will be donated to the recovery effort. Book a bike here.

Every little bit, big or small, truly helps in recovery. Even if it's just a matter of tweeting or posting a kind message on Instagram, take a moment to send the folks in Harvey's path a word of encouragement. The Houston area has a lot of clean up work ahead. Do what you can to ease that burden for millions of people affected by the storm.