Life

5 Ways You Can Help People Affected By The Winter Storm In Texas

There are currently millions without power.

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In northern Mexico and Texas, millions are without power during bitterly cold, snowy, and icy conditions. According to the National Weather Service, temperatures are reaching as low as 5 to 3 degrees below zero. With so many trying to survive without heat in the midst of such dangerously freezing conditions, it's important to know how to help people affected by the winter storm and power outages in Texas.

Additional resources are on the way to Texas since President Joe Biden declared a federal emergency throughout all 254 of the state's counties on Feb. 14 — but even as folks there are now eligible for direct federal assistance in the wake of these winter storms, the need for help is still urgent. This is especially true for those who are experiencing homelessness, as finding shelter, warmth, and food is particularly difficult and dangerous in the freezing temperatures, ice, and snow.

There are a number of ways to offer assistance, even if you're not in the state. If you're looking to help out, you can donate to community organizations committed to keeping housing insecure folks safe during the winter storm. You could also send essentials to nonprofits working to keep people safe and warm. Here are five different ways you can help people affected by the Texas winter storms.

1

Donate To The #LoveThyNeighborTX Campaign

Local Texas civil rights organization the Austin Area Urban League has declared a week-long emergency donation collection from Feb. 14 to 21 to help people being impacted by the winter storm and power outages. You can donate to the #LoveThyNeighborTX campaign, which is partnering with other community-focused organizations to keep Texans safe, especially folks who are housing insecure.

2

Send Effective, Large Blankets

Austin-based nonprofit Front Steps is hosting its annual blanket drive and is requesting specific types to make sure donations are most effective for the people who need them. Acrylic blankets that are larger than 60” x 80” are the most helpful, Front Steps says on its site — small blankets, as well as those made of cotton or wool, are just not effective in wet and cold conditions. If you're not in Texas or can't access Front Steps' downtown location, you can order blankets online (the site lists the most useful blankets to donate here) and ship them directly to the nonprofit at 500 East 7th St., Austin, TX 78701.

3

Contribute To Efforts To Curb Food Insecurity

Small business Free Lunch is continuing throughout the winter storm to make and deliver home-cooked meals to the residents of the Esperanza Community, a state-sanctioned shelter complex campsite in Austin. According to the Austin American-Statesman, Free Lunch has been delivering blankets, hand warmers, and hygiene kits in addition to their regular meals to the 200 residents who are experiencing homelessness. You can donate to support the organization's efforts here.

4

Keep Texas Pets Warm & Safe

The animal shelter Austin Pets Alive! is working to keep pets across Texas warm and safe during the freezing conditions. If you can safely do so, they're asking for locals to deliver water for pets and humans, flashlights or headlamps, cat food, and regular unleaded gas to their Town Lake shelter location at 1156 W Cesar Chavez St Austin, TX 78703. Not sure if the items you have to donate are needed? Or do you need to know more about keeping your pet safe in the cold? Email cold@austinpetsalive.org with any questions, or you can donate here.

5

Know How To Stay Safe In An Outage

Whether you're in a typically-warm state or not, knowing how to keep yourself and your community safe during a power outage is important. According to power company Austin Energy, some best practices during an outage include: turning off your major appliances to avoid a surge when power comes back on; staying inside if possible; trying to use battery-operated flashlights and lanterns instead of candles; and avoiding using gas-powered generators indoors. The Austin American-Statesman also reports that you should text people when possible instead of calling because it uses less phone battery power, and wear a lot of layers to protect yourself from the cold.