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Your Top Questions Concerning Our Hurricane Harvey Response

August 26, 2017. Victoria , Texas. Photo by Daniel Cima for The American Red Cross

This post was updated on Sept. 22, 2017

Since Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Texas Gulf Coast on August 25, we have seen an outpouring of generosity and support. We can’t thank you enough. We know you have questions, and we’re here to answer them. Disasters by their very definition can be chaotic. We hope you’ll help us share this information far and wide to get as much help to the people affected by this disaster in Texas and Louisiana.

  1. Update: Red Cross Financial Assistance for Hurricane Harvey Thanks to our generous donors, the American Red Cross will be providing financial assistance to Texas households that were severely impacted by Harvey and need help taking care of emergency needs. Right now, we are in the initial stages of this effort and are focusing on helping people in emergency shelters. We are experiencing an exceedingly high demand, and ask that people please be patient. Registration, available at Redcross.org/HHIA, will be open for 30 days. In the meantime, please note that assistance will be available for those significantly affected by Hurricane Harvey, which includes:
    · Primary residence was severely impacted by Harvey.
    · Household is in need of emergency assistance.
    · Household was displaced by the impact of Harvey.
    · Verifiable pre-disaster primary address in one of these 39 Texas counties Aransas, Austin, Bastrop, Bee, Brazoria, Calhoun, Chambers, Colorado, DeWitt, Fayette, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad, Gonzalez, Hardin, Harris, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Karnes, Kleberg, Lavaca, Lee, Liberty, Matagorda, Montgomery, Newton, Nueces, Orange, Polk, Refugio, Sabine, San Jacinto, San Patricio, Tyler, Victoria, Walker, Waller and Wharton.The Red Cross is a charity, not a government agency, and people do not need to be American citizens to receive our assistance.
  2. Volunteering

    Guys, we’re going to need each and every one of you to support our mission on this operation. Please know that we are working tirelessly to process all of the volunteer requests that we’re getting. We apologize for any delay or confusion. We’re so excited that you signed up, stepped up and want to help our fellow Americans. Our volunteer services teams have seen an overwhelming number of volunteers come out to serve. This is wonderful, and we are still trying to organize our now very large workforce. When you apply, we can see your record in our system, and a member of the volunteer services team will reach out just as soon as possible and can give you the most accurate and updated information.

  3. In-Kind Item Donations

    The Red Cross isn’t equipped to handle small numbers of item donations because our focus areas are in providing shelter, food and other immediate relief to victims. For this reason, we rely on our partners to help with coordinating drop-offs, sorting and distributing items donated. We would encourage anyone wanting to donate clothing or other supplies to  reach out to community partner organizations that have stepped up to handle that immense and important task. The Texas Tribune offers a list of options.

  4. Text Donations

    If you are experiencing a delay with text donations, please know we are working to resolve this as soon as possible. Due to overwhelming response, you may wait up to 24 hours before being able to process your donation. Here’s what you can expect: you will receive a messaging asking whether you’d like to join the queue, or just donate directly on Redcross.org/harvey.

  5. Pets

    Pets are family, too, and we love your furry friends. We often can’t take pets in our shelters because of the safety of all residents. For this, we rely on community partners to help shelter pets while we shelter people. If you have a service animal, they are welcome. Please coordinate with shelter staff to let them know when you arrive. Check out how we’re coordinating efforts to make sure animals have a safe space, too:

    Dallas: Pets are being handled by the SPCA through Dallas Animal Services.

    Austin: Pet shelter is located at the Met Center, 7000 Metropolis Drive, Austin, TX.

    San Antonio: San Antonio is accepting pet evacuees at Kazen Middle School, 1520 Gillette Blvd, San Antonio, TX  78224.

    Houston: There are many shelters in Houston. Some have the capacity to accept pets and some do not. Please check this list to see where pets will be welcomed.

  6. Did the Red Cross throw out dog food?

    There has been no directive given at any of our operations to discard or dispose of any new donated items such as canned food, water, diapers, blankets or dog food. Snopes also looked into this– you can read more here.

  7. I heard a story about 400 hamburgers…

    So did we. We have looked into what happened and want to address it directly. The safety of the people we serve is our first and utmost priority. Our volunteers and workers on the ground may not be perfect, but they are all working with the best of intentions and to the best of their ability.Please know that if a volunteer or volunteers steps into a situation, they are not trying to overshadow the generosity or compassion of spontaneous assistance being offered but doing so based on training and past experience with that goal–the evacuees safety–in mind not with an intention to “take charge” or in any way diminish those kind efforts.With donations like food especially, we have policies and procedures in place solely to protect the health of those who may already be in a weakened or vulnerable health state. Even properly prepared food, if not clearly monitored, can quickly go bad through no fault of those who prepared or are serving it–which could make a bad situation worse.With all that in mind, we have spoken with the Deputy Director of our operation and the volunteers on the scene. Again, while they may have appeared overzealous, they intervened out of a desire to protect those impacted by Harvey, with their health and well-being in mind. Eventually they assisted in handing out the burgers. These are extremely challenging and often life threatening situations–everybody is trying to meet all needs, while being cut off from the floods.We greatly appreciate not just our volunteers but ALL volunteers and the generous support of the public. We are constantly reviewing our policies and procedures, learning to adapt–because each disaster is different–and learning from experiences. It is our hope you’ll understand that we’re all trying to do the right thing. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
  8. I saw a pretty grim picture claiming you served this meal to disaster victims…
    This one? This meal was not served by the Red Cross. This is actually a picture of a school lunch in Oklahoma from 2016.
  9. How much money is actually going to go to Hurricane Harvey victims and what is it being used for? Donations we receive for Red Cross Disaster Relief are put to excellent use, and we are proud to be good stewards of donor dollars, every day and for every response.91 cents of every dollar we receive for Hurricane Harvey will be spent to help people affected by Hurricane Harvey. Any donation, large or small, will help. For example, $2.50 can provide a comfort kit containing personal hygiene items, like shampoo, conditioner, soap, a razor, toothbrush and toothpaste, for someone in a disaster. $5 can cover the cost of a blanket, and $10 the cost of a hot meal. A $50 donation can provide a full day of food and shelter for one person, including three meals, a cot, two blankets, and a comfort kit as well as the costs to support the Red Cross workers providing this service. For $200, someone’s donation can cover the cost of providing a full day of food and shelter to a family of four. Money may also be used for replacing medications, new eyeglasses, wheelchairs, clean up supplies and a whole host of other things.
  10. I saw a video from a woman claiming that the Red Cross was stealing donations from churches – and something about an Obama-era executive order? This is most definitely not an accurate claim. We even asked the video’s creator Ms. Nelms to share any details, locations of these churches, or names of anyone involved in her assertion — and she failed to do so. You can read the Snopes.com investigation here.

For other questions about the best ways to help after a disaster, see our tips for smart giving.