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Braving the Cold Together

Local LGBTQ organizations provide resources during and after the extended blackout.

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Pride Houston and Lesbians of Color teamed up with Houston’s five openly LGBTQ judges on February 21 to provide resources to folks after Winter Storm Uri (Facebook).

Many Texans died, and millions went without electricity and clean water for days due to winter storm Uri. Although Texas lawmakers’ inept planning for the February freeze left people on their own and in the dark, several local LGBTQ organizations provided resources and shelter to folks in need before, during, and after the historic cold snap.

Lesbians of Color (LOC), a nonprofit designed to empower LBTQ women and nonbinary people of color, helped and found shelter for many who went without power, hot meals, or water for three or more days. Kendra Walker, the founder and director of LOC, even opened her home to a group of six who had no water and power. 

 “All members of our community are important; the help we provided really did save lives,” Walker said.

LOC was not the only organization that took in members of the community during Uri. Tony’s Corner Pocket also housed people and provided food. The LGBTQ bar opened its doors to give freezing, hungry locals a warming station and free barbecue and chicken.

“I’ve been in the community for 14 years, and that’s just the way we’re supposed to do it,” said Tony Vacarro, the bar’s owner. 

Tony’s Corner Pocket plans on hosting a benefit show to support the community and offer people what they need most in the aftermath of Uri: food, clothing, and love. 

To those still recovering from the winter storm, Vacarro said, “Try to stay positive. When one door closes, another door will open—so long as you look for it.”

While many organizations helped out during the storm, Tony’s Place, a resource center that provides basic emergency services for homeless LGBTQ youth and allies, gave out supplies before Houston was blanketed in snow. The drop-in shelter handed out resources such as winter clothes, nonperishable food, snack items, and water. 

“We also attempted to get members that were eligible for shelters into some of those spaces,” said MaDonna Land, program director of Tony’s Place, in an interview with AccuWeather.

Montrose Grace Place (MGP), an LGBTQ-affirming nonprofit committed to serving homeless youth, also distributed resources such as sleeping bags and coats. BUDDY’S Bar and Barcode both offered individuals food and shelter. Barcode’s PRIDE Pantry, which was originally created to help those impacted by the pandemic, provided the community with supplies ranging from deodorant to toilet paper. 

Like PRIDE Pantry, the Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT) relaunched its Emergency Community Relief Fund in the wake of Uri. Although the fund was first formed to support trans and/or intersex Texans affected by the pandemic, TENT decided to revive this program to help trans Texans who are struggling financially due to the storm. 

Although the storm has passed, Houstonians are still hurting. To address the community’s needs, LOC, in partnership with Pride Houston, an organization dedicated to uplifting Houston’s LGBTQ community, teamed up with five local LGBTQ judges to distribute water and nonperishable food on February 21. The two groups worked with judges Shannon Baldwin, Jim Kovach, Jerry Simoneaux, Jason Cox, and Beau Miller to give away over 200 cases of bottled water and more than 100 bags of food, diapers, and wipes.

Walker notes that if LOC and Pride Houston can’t help those in need, they will connect people to agencies that can. “We are in this together,” says Walker, who also serves as Pride Houston’s executive vice president. “Even though we are all somewhat fatigued after [last] year, Houston is strong, and our community is here to help each other get through this.”

To support and learn more about the organizations mentioned above, visit the links below: 

Lesbians of Color: weareloc.mybigcommerce.com/
Tony’s Corner Pocket: facebook.com/Tonys-Corner-Pocket-252715648741822/
Tony’s Place: tonysplace.org/
Montrose Grace Place: montrosegraceplace.org/
BUDDY’S Bar: facebook.com/buddyshouston/
Barcode’s PRIDE Pantry: facebook.com/PridePantryHouston/
Transgender Education Network of Texas: transtexas.org/
Pride Houston: pridehouston.org/

This article appears in the March 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine.

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Lillian Hoang

Lillian Hoang is a staff reporter for OutSmart Magazine. She graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in journalism and minor in Asian American studies. She works as a College of Education communication assistant and hopes to become an editor-in-chief.
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