In response to this week’s flooding and in preparation for hurricane season, Mayor Annise Parker has launched an initiative aimed at getting basic clean-up assistance to those in need as quickly as possible after disasters occur.
The Houston Volunteer Disaster Assistance Initiative is designed to coordinate and support the efforts of Houston’s many volunteer groups so they can more quickly identify and assist elderly, disabled and low-income residents who are least likely to be able to handle disaster clean-up themselves.
“When disaster strikes, the city’s immediate focus is on responding to major public needs such as infrastructure and safety,” said Mayor Annise Parker. “We have not had a system in place to support the efforts of volunteer organizations which are willing and able to assist individuals, but need help identifying those most vulnerable. With hurricane season days away, we have an opportunity to develop and test a system, while helping our residents recover from this week’s flooding.”
The initiative is being led by City Housing and Community Development Department (HCDD) Director Neal Rackleff, who is working first with faith-based volunteer groups to develop a template, which will then be rolled out to additional organizations. Yesterday, HCDD employees and volunteers from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which has a robust disaster response team already in place, went door-to-door in Houston neighborhoods hit hardest by Tuesday’s floods. They identified homes of elderly or disabled people unable to clean up the flood debris or remove flood-damage carpet and furniture. The neighborhoods were identified by calls received through the city’s 311 line. Today, volunteer crews are being deployed to those homes to do the work.
“The city has the systems in place to immediately identify the areas of greatest need,” said Rackleff. “We are working to get that information out quickly to a network of organizations which can then immediately deploy volunteers to help our most vulnerable citizens. This will help the city, as a whole, recover faster.”
To expand the initiative and have it in place for hurricane season, additional faith-based and non-profit groups are being contacted to participate. Volunteers will continue to be deployed to help flood victims as long as the current need exists. Elderly, disabled and low-income persons who need help with flood clean-up should call 311.
(Media wanting information on where the volunteers will be working over the weekend should contact Jocklynn Keville at 832-656-1394 or Jocklynn.Keville@houstontx.gov)