Bright Ideas Blog

Hurricane Harvey Hit the Poor and Elderly Hardest: How to Help

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, an organic web of human support is now spreading across Texas. Government organizations, nonprofits and faith groups along with survivors and citizens tired of watching fellow Texans suffer on TV are stepping up to do their part.

Yesterday, I was helping serve lunch at a shelter in Austin – a small effort on my part — but it reminded me again of a tragic truth: Disasters hit the least fortunate among us harder than anyone. While many neighbors and co-workers are hosting friends and family who’ve been driven out of their homes by Harvey, the people I was serving lacked the family and social support networks that so many of us could rely on in similar circumstances.

Harvey Rescue
Civilians in the ‘Cajun Navy’ brought their own boats to rescue Harvey victims. (Courtesy: WGN-TV)

“The pain is greater in low-income neighborhoods because they don’t have insurance and have no place to go,” says David Crossley, founder of Houston Tomorrow, a nonprofit focused on Houston’s growth.

People who end up in shelters have literally nowhere else to turn. No family to put them up. No way to get some money until they can get back home. They lack basic necessities like food and water, but also diapers, baby food, or even clean clothes to change into, if and when they get a chance to take a hot shower.

While shelters are open to all — nearly 30,000 people will spend some amount of time in shelters over the coming days and weeks — as time goes on a significant percentage of those sheltered will be the poorest of the poor. They include many in the homeless population of the affected areas, as well as elderly people and children. In some cases, they are individuals with medical or mental health issues who have fallen through the cracks of other safety nets. And they all end up together, under one roof, in one large room with no privacy.

Harvey rescue
Elderly populations are often among the hardest hit during a natural disaster. (Courtesy CNN)

How You Can Help

Those of us who work in the clean energy industry understand the urgent need to address the ever-increasing devastation that climate change is waging on our world. The disaster we just witnessed was unprecedented. Unfortunately, I fear it won’t be the last unprecedented climate event in our lifetimes.

So please do you part, in any and every way you can, from volunteering to donating or any combination in between, to support those who are suffering today. And be proud to know that the professional work you’re doing will make a difference in diminishing the damage inflicted on our planet tomorrow.


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