Catholic Charities continues immediate, long-term recovery efforts after Harvey

Bob Roller | Catholic News Service
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As Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts continue in Texas, and Florida braces for Hurricane Irma, Catholic Charities of St. Louis and Catholic Charities USA continue the work of providing immediate and long-term recovery efforts.

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson has asked parishes in the Archdiocese of St. Louis to hold a special collection for recovery efforts in Texas. The collections were held Sept. 2-3 and 9-10.

Donations made to Catholic Charities of St. Louis and designated for Hurricane Harvey 2017 will be sent directly to Catholic Charities of Galveston-Houston and any other Catholic Charities organizations in impacted areas. The funds will be designated for immediate and long-term recovery efforts.

Catholic Charities USA also presented a $2 million check Sept. 4 representing donations received to date for recovery efforts.

"We're very fortunate to have such a giving archdiocese to those in need," said Brian Thouvenot, chief development officer with Catholic Charities of St. Louis.

Cash donations remain the best and most direct opportunity to help others in need. It offers agencies the most flexibility in obtaining specific resources for people. According to the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, monetary donations are the preferred method of contributing to relief efforts. In-kind donations, especially those that are unsolicited, created challenges in sorting and storage, when the focus is needed on response and recovery.

While some have concerns about how charitable organizations spend donations, Thouvenot stressed that 100 percent of funds for disaster recovery that are donated to Catholic Charities go toward recovery efforts.

"It's 100 percent. Period," Thouvenot said.

Donations made to Catholic Charities help with both immediate relief and long-term recovery efforts. For example, Catholic Charities of St. Louis is continuing to work with people affected by the Perryville tornado in February, and flooding along area rivers in 2016 and 2017.

"We think about disaster when it's happening in the weeks beyond the event, but after that most people have moved on," he said. "The devastation and recovery can continue for years. We're there when everybody else packs up and families look around and say, 'Where is my house and how do I do this?'"

Catholic Charities USA

Catholic Charities USA's Mobile Response Center vehicle, filled with emergency supplies, left Catholic Charities headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, for Texas and will remain there to assist Catholic Charities agencies with response efforts.

Diocesan Catholic Charities agencies have been hard at work in recovery efforts, addressing difficulties as they arise.

In Houston, which has received the lion's share of attention, there have been huge problems finding temporary housing. Apartments are flooded and hotels are not accepting payments from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. On top of that, the city is getting ready to shut down shelters.

In Victoria, relief efforts are just getting started, as Catholic Charities is trying to find a building to convert into a distribution center. Cleaning supplies are still needed to cope with the aftermath of flooding.

While most volunteers want to go to southeast Texas, which suffered significant damage, five counties in the Diocese of Austin were also hit by Harvey. Catholic Charities personnel have gone door-to-door to hotels in Bryan and College Station trying to find displaced people, then connecting them to United Way, as hotels in the area are full due to the college football season. Some businesses are offering paid time off for employees to go to impacted areas and do volunteer work.

In Corpus Christi, Catholic Charities USA workers are on the ground with people and resources. The biggest challenges they face include finding places to store donated supplies and relocating residents with no affordable housing available.

Catholic News Service contributed to this story. 

Help after Harvey

To assist in the efforts, donations should be made to Catholic Charities of St. Louis and mailed to P.O. Box 952393, St. Louis, MO 63195-2393. Be sure to note Hurricane Harvey 2017.

Donations can be made online at www.ccstl.org/get-involved/donate. Be sure to select the Hurricane Harvey 2017 Fund. 

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