They're estimating there could be as many as 100,000 refugees in Houston now, and if New Orleans remains uninhabitable for months it seems certain that number will grow. The hotels here are full, but people are quickly running out of money and finding themselves suddenly homeless and living on the street with their families and pets. The Vietnamese community here has rallied to find host families for 500 displaced Vietnamese refugees ("Nguyen, the mother of two, was at the market to pick up some groceries. She ended up taking home the entire 11-member Tran family instead.") Churches and organizations all over town are providing free meals to refugees and their pets. School districts here are preparing to accept masses of newly homeless refugee children and Rice University and TSU are opening their doors to displaced college students from Louisiana.
The first refugees from the Superdome arrived at the Astrodome last night, but this morning brought the sad news that evacuation efforts have been interrupted because of gunfire and arson around the Superdome. The stories coming out of New Orleans are of horrors beyond imagining. Meanwhile, refugees here are being turned away from the Astrodome, forced to find space at other shelters around the city. And people continue to pour into the city, by any means necessary, hoping to find shelter and safety.
I am sad, and I am angry. Angry at the Bush Administration's criminal lack of foresight and belated reaction to a disaster that has been predicted for a long time. The dissolution of FEMA in favor of so-called "Homeland Security" and the diversion of resources to the war in Iraq have taken my disgust for this administration to new heights.
For those of you who want to help and are looking for alternatives to the Red Cross, here are some other organizations that are reaching out to help:
Adventist Community Services: 800-381-7171
America's Second Harvest: 800-344-8070
Catholic Charities, USA: 703-549-1390
Christian Disaster Response: 941-956-5183 or 941-551-9554
Christian Reformed World Relief Committee: 800-848-5818
Church World Service: 800-297-1516
Convoy of Hope: 417-823-8998
Lutheran Disaster Response: 800-638-3522
Mennonite Disaster Service: 717-859-2210
Nazarene Disaster Response: 888-256-5886
Operation Blessing: 800-436-6348
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance: 800-872-3283
Salvation Army: 1-800-SAL-ARMY (1-800-725-2769)
Southern Baptist Convention -- Disaster Relief: 800-462-8657, ext. 6440
United Jewish Communities: 800-554-8583
Unitarian Universalist Association Gulf Coast Relief Fund: 888-792-5885
United Methodist Committee on Relief: 800-554-8583
• The Houston Food Bank needs volunteers and paper goods, cleaning supplies, bottled water, peanut butter, heat-and-eat foods, single-serving foods and snacks that don't require refrigeration, and cash. Information: 713-223-3700 or houstonfoodbank.org/katrina.htm.
• KSBJ-FM and the Greater Houston YMCA are collecting prepaid grocery, gasoline and phone cards. Donations will be accepted today at Sharpstown Mall, Thursday at Memorial City Mall and Friday at Almeda Mall, noon-7 p.m. each day. Houston-area YMCAs will accept cards through September.
• The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston will conduct a special collection at weekend Masses. Funds will go to Catholic Charities USA.
• The Jewish Federation of Greater Houston is accepting tax-deductible donations at www.houstonjewish.org or Jewish Federation of Greater Houston Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief Fund, 5603 S. Braeswood, Houston, TX 77096.
• The Islamic Circle of North America is taking donations at www.icna.org and by mail at ICNA, P.O. Box 572181, Houston, TX 77257.
• The West Houston Church of Christ, 17100 West, is collecting phone, gas and grocery cards through September for distribution to Red Cross shelters. Call 281-856-0001 or visit www.westhoustonchurch.org.
• The Katy Chamber of Commerce, 2501 S. Mason, Suite 230, Katy, is taking donations of goods and services. Visit www.katychamber.com or call 281-828-1100 for more information.
• The United Way Katrina Refugee Relief Fund will raise money for evacuees staying in Houston. Donations are to be made at any Amegy Bank of Texas or mailed to United Way Katrina Refugee Relief Fund, Account No. 3601021, Attn. Teller, P.O. Box 27459 Houston, TX 77227.
• To volunteer your time or donate bedding or other items, call the United Way of the Texas Gulf Coast at 713-957-4357 or 800-833-5948.
• The East Fort Bend Human Needs Ministry Food Pantry, 425 Stafford Run in Stafford, is collecting nonperishable foods 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays. Call 281-261-1006.
• The Katy Area Chamber of Commerce is soliciting volunteers and donations at www.katychamber.com and 281-828-1100.
• The Buzz, KTBZ-FM (94.5), is auctioning off autographed guitars and rock memorabilia at www.thebuzz.com.
• Telemundo affiliate KTMD (Channel 47) and La Mera Mera KROI-FM (92.1) are collecting checks, payable to the Red Cross, as well as bedding, water, toiletries, new undergarments for children and adults, diapers, baby formula and first-aid kits at Telemundo offices, 1235 North Loop West.
• Randalls shoppers may add donations to the Spirit of Texas Hurricane Relief Fund and the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund to their grocery bill through Sept. 11. Co-sponsored by KHOU (Channel 11) and radio stations KTRH-AM (740), KHMX-FM (96.5) and KKRW-FM (93.7).
• Food drive sponsored by KPRC (Channel 2) and H.E.B. Make donations 6 a.m.-6 p.m. at Channel 2, 8181 Southwest Freeway, and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. at several H.E.B. locations.
• The Chabad Lubavitch Center, an Orthodox Jewish organization at 10900 Fondren, is seeking volunteers to provide Jewish refugees with hospitality, kosher food, clothing and emergency cash; 713-777-2000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
• St. Luke's United Methodist Church is accepting donations. Send checks marked ``Disaster Response'' to the church at P.O. Box 22013, Houston 77227.
• St. Vincent de Paul Society, 2403 Holcombe, needs volunteers. Call 713-741-8234. Also needed are nonperishable food, clothing, new underwear, new children's sleeping bags, pillows, slippers, pajamas, crayons, coloring books, personal hygiene items and pet food. Drop off donated items, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, at Washington Thrift Store, 2020 Washington; Bellaire Thrift Store, 5236 Cedar; and Ozanam Outlet, 610 Memory Lane.
• Episcopal churches will take an offering Sunday to buy food gift cards for evacuees. Send contributions to Hurricane Relief, Episcopal Diocese of Texas, 3203 W. Alabama, Houston 77098.
• The Union for Reform Judaism is collecting donations online at urj.org/give; mail checks payable to URJ Hurricane Relief at Congregation Emanu El, 1500 Sunset, Houston 77005.
• The Houston-based Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church is accepting donations through local Methodist churches. Online donations may be made at www.methodistrelief.org.
• Operation: Share Your Home is an organization founded in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina hit. Its purpose is to match people willing to share their homes with evacuees who need temporary shelter.
• Texans owner Bob McNair has issued a $1 million challenge. The Houston Texans will match pledges contributed during tonight's game between the Texans and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Details will be announced on KTRK (Channel 13) during the game broadcast.