After nearly five months of supporting families affected by Winter Storm Uri, our Disaster Response Team is now closing out its services. The storm came during an already challenging year for so many, emphasizing once again the disproportionate impact of disasters on the most vulnerable and under resourced in our community.
Meeting families where they are
Many of the families we served came from one apartment complex in Fort Worth, which was forced to completely shut down and evacuate all residents due to burst pipes. In total, we served 83 families from across North Texas, including Fort Worth, Arlington, Pelican Bay, Dublin, Jacksboro, Springtown, Hurst, and Haltom City.
Due to an outpouring of support from donors and corporate partners, we were able to address a variety of needs after the winter storm and meet families where they were at. We worked to holistically support each family in their unique situation and, where possible, use our funding flexibility and creativity to personalize our assistance. Most families’ first step was to apply for disaster assistance through FEMA as well as the City, so our role was to assess any remaining needs and fill the gaps. We provided financial assistance for hotel costs, rent payments, car repairs, furniture, and more. In some cases, we simply provided Walmart gift cards to cover someone’s lost groceries. To date, we have provided more than $75,000 in assistance.
At the core of these efforts was an incredible group of volunteers. We recruited nine committed volunteers, who learned how to use our phone system, our database, and our communications tools – all from their own homes. They provided individual disaster case management services to our clients, coordinating financial assistance and making resource referrals to services such as plumbing and roofing. They also worked to equip and empower families with the knowledge and confidence to navigate support services on their own in the future. We are deeply grateful for our volunteers’ dedication and the way they extended compassion to families during a vulnerable and challenging time.
Our agency’s response to the storm was highly collaborative, involving other local service providers as well as the City of Fort Worth. We combined resources to meet clients’ needs, communicated to ensure we were not duplicating services, and coordinated with the City where possible to reduce burdens on our clients (such as unusually high water bills due to broken pipes).
Some of our clients continue to live in hotels. Already unemployed due to COVID-19, they were evicted due to the winter storm and stuck in an unforgiving situation, unable to qualify for new housing without proof of employment and stable income. Part of our work has been to work with landlords on this issue, to help move clients back into stable housing. Nonetheless, it highlights the compounding effect of crises and the need to reduce existing vulnerabilities for families living in or near poverty.
“With people with this many barriers, you don’t just borrow water from a neighbor and everything’s fine,” said Jay Semple, head of CCFW’s Disaster Response Team.
As always, we think with a long-term recovery lens. Recognizing the overlapping barriers faced by many of our winter storm clients, we referred several families to our long-term case management services in order to support them beyond this disaster and toward long-term stability.
If you would like to be part of our disaster response efforts in the future, I encourage you to reach out to Jay Semple, Manager of Faith & Community Based Partnerships, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jay will be conducting trainings in the coming months to ensure we have a team of volunteers prepared and ready to go in the case of future disaster response needs in the community.