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By Marene Gustin
As shelters close and volunteers move on, the devastation remains. The residual effects of Tropical Storm Harvey may not be as traumatic as the storm itself, but life in Houston won’t return to the status quo anytime soon.
That’s where the Montrose Center’s LGBTQ Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Fund comes in.
“Although it is a challenge, we must look past the immediate response to the massive flooding and displacement of LGBTQ individuals and families,” says Montrose Center board member Daryl Shorter, who chairs the board’s Philanthropy Committee. “This recovery will take months to years, so providing sustained support will be necessary to ensure that no one slips through the cracks. Montrose Center services, such as case management, counseling, and support groups, can serve to help bolster people as emotional and mental-health concerns become more and more evident—as they are sure to do in the aftermath of a natural disaster.”
Thanks to celebrity support, the Montrose Center’s fund went viral on social media. Created even before the rain stopped, the fund was covered by CNN, the New York Times, Rolling Stone, and even The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
As of mid-September, the fund had raised $503,495 from 5,936 donors, with an additional $50,000 in matching gifts pledged.
“The LGBTQ Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Fund is one of the larger natural-disaster funds the LGBTQ community has ever raised,” Montrose Center executive director Ann Robison says. “We are in awe of the tremendous support we received from LGBTQ networks and organizations across the nation. It is an honor to be trusted with funds to help the community rebuild. I am also proud of the incredible staff at the Center who have sacrificed to serve those impacted by the storm, even when many were impacted themselves.”
On August 29, musician Jack Antonoff tweeted: “I’m going to match donations up to 10K to the montrose LGBT center in houston for harvey relief PLEASE donate!”
Antonoff’s girlfriend, HBO’s Girls star Lena Dunham, replied with a donation. Other donors in the early days of the campaign included Hillary Clinton, Patricia Arquette, Stephen Wrabel, Tig Notaro, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Jazz Jennings, and transgender activist Aydian Dowling.
On August 30, Orange Is the New Black star Ruby Rose received some backlash on Twitter after donating $10,000. “The LGBT center does not just help LGBT members in a crisis like this,” Rose replied. “It does not discriminate [against] people in need based on gender, sexuality, race, or religion. It is one of the most inclusive organizations I can think of. Unfortunately, many organizations have in the past denied entry to people based on the above. . . I am extremely proud to hear how Texans have joined forces in such a beautiful, heartwarming way.”
Echoing Rose, Shorter called the fund “critically important to the Greater Houston LGBTQ community.” The fund is designed to be a payer of last resort, catching those who fall through the cracks of more traditional aid agencies.
“Unfortunately, LGBTQ people can still be victims of discrimination from, or simply forgotten by, many of the organizations that have mobilized to help those who have been impacted by the storm,” he says. “That’s why Montrose Center programs that focus on re-housing and providing food, furniture, and supplies are so vital at this time.”
Beginning just two days after the storm hit Houston, more than 80 staff members—half of them social workers, case managers, and mental-health professionals—began contacting the Center’s 35,000 core-programming clients. Hundreds of these clients have applied to receive help from the fund, and 257 new clients have come to the Center for help.
“The fund is a great resource for many LGBTQ Houstonians impacted by the disaster, especially considering how many in our community are facing recovery without traditional family support,” says Gretchen Myers, president of the board for the 39-year-old center. “I am impressed with the incredible reach the fund achieved around the globe, and how supportive the LGBTQ extended community has been—publishing information [about the Center and its relief fund], donating, and sending in-kind support. It is awesome to be in a position to provide not just short-term, but long-term recovery support.”
To request services through the fund, go here.
This article appears in the October 2017 edition of OutSmart Magazine.