South Texas and Louisiana are beginning the recovery process after Hurricane Harvey brought an estimated of 50 inches of rainfall, causing loss of life, extensive property damage, and hardship for the residents of Houston, the United States’ fourth-largest city. Fatalities are estimated to be over 60 people, with tens of thousands more displaced and staying in shelters and government-funded hotel rooms. As the water recedes, assessments have determined that the storm damaged at least 200,000 homes, destroying more than 12,700 others in the area. Multiple news outlets are reporting that Harvey may be the most expensive natural disaster in US history.
IOCC, the official humanitarian agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, is collaborating with local Orthodox churches, members of national and Texas VOADs (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster), and ecumenical partners to assess the situation in Houston and provide relief where it is needed most. IOCC is working with Church World Service (CWS), the American Red Cross, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, NECHAMA Jewish Disaster, All-Hands Disaster, and other partners to understand and respond to immediate needs and relief gaps. Further, IOCC is closely monitoring weather conditions as new storms develop in the Caribbean and Atlantic.
IOCC US Program Response
- Pre-storm, IOCC coordinated with the Red Cross, which asked specifically that our Frontliners, highly trained clergy and laity, provide emotional and spiritual care to those affected by the storm in Red Cross run shelters. Twelve Frontliners are now on the ground currently and we will rotate in a second team as the original team members return home.
- The Frontliner team was the first group to offer emotional and spiritual care in the “mega-shelter” at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston, and they remain a steadfast presence there, collectively offering 12 hours of care daily to both survivors and volunteers, as well as to law-enforcement officers, at the center which at one time had as many as 10,000 displaced people being sheltered and still has about 1,000 people left in it .
- Orthodox clergy represented the Orthodox community and IOCC at the interfaith service held at the Convention Center on Sunday 9/3. Other members of the Frontline visited Orthodox parishes beginning at Sunday’s Divine Liturgies to offer emotional and spiritual support to the local clergy and affected parishioners.
- The IOCC Emergency Response Van and staff arrived in Houston on 9/1 to conduct a Rapid Needs Assessment of the overall situation and support IOCC muck out team volunteers. IOCC’s first muck-out team took place on Saturday 9/4 with 13 volunteers participating and continued on 9/5 with an additional 15 volunteers. Some 50–75 more houses are slated for assessments and possible muck-outs in the coming weeks.
- IOCC has arranged, through partners Church World Service and Good360, for two truckloads of hygiene kits, clean-up buckets, food, and baby products to the Houston area, arriving early the week of 9/4. The Church World Service truck arrived on 9/4 at St. Basil Greek Orthodox Church containing 200 clean up buckets and 6,000 hygiene kits. Fr. Luke Palumbis, pastor of St. Basil’s and an IOCC Frontliner, organized the distribution of the clean-up buckets and hygiene kits which began immediately and is continuing
- IOCC’s partner Church World Service has informed us that there is a tremendous need for hygiene kits and clean-up buckets to replenish their supply at the warehouse. Instructions on creating and shipping kits here: iocc.org/kits.
- Aside from kits made to the specifications at iocc.org/kits, please know that cash donations are most efficient at this time and give IOCC flexibility in crisis response: iocc.org/Harvey.
- We would caution against donating material goods unless it is something we have specifically requested. This is because the effort it takes to store, sort and distribute in-kind goods not specifically requested becomes a burden to those actively responding.
- Those interested in volunteering for clean-up efforts in the region should register using the form at https://goo.gl/hkwg1F. Houston-area volunteers will be of greatest help at the moment, or if people from out-of-town have their own lodging and transportation. Longer term, there will be additional opportunities for out-of-area volunteers as we return with Orthodox Action Home building teams.
- IOCC staff is checking in with every Orthodox parish in the region to assess clean-up and other needs. Parishioners who have specific clean-up needs are asked to speak to their parish priest, who will coordinate with IOCC.
- Updates on IOCC response are available on the IOCC website (iocc.org/Harvey) and social media channels (IOCCRelief).
- IOCC is listed by multiple media channels, including the Associated Press (AP), as a trusted organization that is already responding to the great need and is accepting donations.
Please let me know if you have any questions or if I can help in any way. Thank you again!
Christina Meares | Manager, Outreach, Special Events, and Donor Engagement
International Orthodox Christian Charities
110 West Road, Suite 360
Baltimore, MD 21204
IOCC HQ: +1 (410) 243-9820