More than two years after Hurricane Harvey flooded St. Francis of Assisi parishioner Kathy Gabriel’s home, she finally celebrated the holidays this past November and December in her home that had to be demolished and rebuilt....Sherry Dunlap, [is] a fellow parishioner who took it upon her faith in action to help those families.
“Thanks to training through TMO (The Metropolitan Organization), I became the de facto Harvey Disaster Case Administrator for the church and our parishioners and others around the city,” Dunlap said.
Even St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church itself was inundated with water and the subsequent problems of mold and other issues that the Archdiocese helped to resolve.
TMO and Gulf Coast Leadership Council (GCLC) representative Gina Reynoso said the nonprofit organizations acted as a conduit to connect people in need after the hurricane with the multitude of agencies attempting to help.
With contribution from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, GCLC organized meetings with churches and their congregations impacted by the hurricane as being places of trust among the flurry of contractors and others trying to get a piece of the work. Reynoso said, “In the last two years, GCLC has held outreach sessions reaching more than 2,000 people....
[Photo Credit (left): James Ramos, Herald; (right): St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church]
A Renovated Home for the Holidays: St. Francis of Assisi Parishioners Mark Second Christmas Since Harvey, Texas Catholic Herald [pdf]
Immigration 'Know Your Rights' civic academies organized by TMO leaders drew more than two hundred immigrant participants eager to learn their rights and responsibilities as residents in the Houston area.
At St. Theresa Catholic in Sugarland, over 100 members participated in civic academies that included an educational 'Know Your Rights' training, small group conversations and an overview of the Census. Attorney Liz Macias Mendoza led the educational presentation and held over 30 individual consultations.
At Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Rosenberg, 30 parishioners participated in a session in which attorneys Carolina Ortuzar-Diaz and Eduardo Franco led presentations and held 18 individual consultations. In Houston, 70 members of Assumption Catholic participated in small group conversations and a 'Know Your Rights' workshop led by attorney Magali Suarez Candler.
These civic academies were organized as an outgrowth of the national 'Recognizing the Stranger' immigration strategy supported by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
Immigration Sessions: Know Your Rights, The Metropolitan Organization
Tapping into TMO member congregations and institutions, Gulf Coast Leadership Council has facilitated outreach sessions to connect congregants with city, county, and non-profit staff to help to guide them through post-Harvey recovery. So far this year, GCLC conducted 8 outreach sessions. Including outreach sessions from last year, GCLC has engaged over 700 households, 80% of which did not previously have a case manager or recovery support.
Sessions were held at Christ Church Cathedral Episcopal, Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic, Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic, St. Francis Cabrini Catholic, St. Gregory the Great Catholic, St. Cyril of Alexandria Catholic, and Our Lady of Grace Catholic in South Houston.
In a multi-day training co-sponsored by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the Organizers Institute of the West/Southwest IAF, and Gulf Coast Leadership Council (GCLC), 111 predominantly Spanish-speaking leaders from 25 Houston-area congregations convened to learn how to be effective leaders in their communities. Most the leaders came from Spanish-speaking Catholic and Episcopal congregations.
Trainees participated in nine leadership workshops that included topics like the Eucharistic Community as envisioned by St. Paul and leadership practices promoted by Jethro. All the sessions incorporated reflections on Scripture, religious traditions and effective institutional organizing practices. Groups from each parish were encouraged to engage with their pastor and parish leadership to explore opportunities for local training and the development of a listening campaign this year for their parishes and communities.
Leadership Development at Assumption Catholic Church, The Metropolitan Organization
GCLC has hosted numerous Harvey Intake sessions at churches in North, Northeast and Southeast Houston/Pasadena to connect agencies with victims of Hurricane Harvey who are still in desperate need of assistance.
“The purpose of these intake sessions is to bring recovery resources to a targeted neighborhood and community,” Elizabeth Valdez, lead organizer with TMO, said. “While many Harvey survivors have become distrustful and disheartened by the recovery process, these sessions have offered a more hopeful approach by meeting survivors in their congregations. Over 300 families visited the sessions and approximately 80 percent did not have a case manager prior to these sessions. For many, this was their first face-to-face interaction with an agency.”
GCLC leaders organized the sessions and conducted neighborhood walks to bring in clients from surrounding neighborhoods. The host congregations included Assumption Catholic Church, St. Luke the Evangelist Catholic Church, New Pleasant Grove Baptist, Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, St. Pius V Catholic Church in Pasadena and St. Leo the Great Catholic Church.
Sherry Dunlap, leader with TMO, said the organization hosts sessions at various churches and brings agencies to the people who are in need of home repairs. “Phones calls are made to seek churches who have people who have not received any assistance or did not receive enough support to get back in their homes,” she said. “Some of the people we meet with have unmet needs, therefore, we connect them with agencies who provide support.”
Dunlap said the organization also works to be advocates for the people they are serving. They have met before city council to seek more disaster case managers, with Mayor Sylvester Turner about disaster relief funding, and with Judge Ed Emmett about the bayous that would be included in the bond.
“Meetings are conducted to check on the progress of people we have connected with the agencies, and to prepare for our sessions with the agencies,” she said. “Phone calls are made and received from Harvey victims daily to check on them and advise them as to their next steps.”
The organization plans to continue hosting sessions, which are coordinated in partnership with the Alliance for Multicultural Services, SBP, Wesley Community Center, Avenue CDC, Fifth Ward CDC, and other LISC Collaborative Members....
CCHD Assists Organizations to Help Those Still Challenged with Harvey Recovery, Texas Catholic Herald [pdf]
In response to stories heard at their parish, leaders from All Saints Catholic Church organized a civic academy with Attorney Carolina Ortuzar-Diaz and Assistant Police Chief Victorian to learn how the latest changes on DACA and SB4 might impact them. Following the information portion of the session, leaders broke out into small groups to share their immigration experiences.
40 members of congregations participated in a two-day leadership training workshop to learn how to organize, build power, and act on their faith as congregational leaders.
After months of research on Houston disaster recovery systems, in which leaders learned there had been little movement from nonprofit agencies servicing clients, GCLC-prepared leaders organized 10 Hurricane Harvey Home Repair & Unmet Need Intake Sessions drawing 275 survivors from their congregations. The popularity of the sessions revealed still-massive recovery needs, particularly in low-income communities. Nearly 80% of all attendees lacked an active case manager or any communication with a recovery group prior to attending the sessions. Leaders plan to put together more intake sessions, offering similar access to recovery resources, in hard-hit areas with great need.
Leaders educate neighbors of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church about Harvey Home Repair opportunities. This event was preceded by a neighborhood walk in which leaders knocked on doors to listen to residents' concerns.