How to help and get help in Texas as the winter storm causes power outages
Local organizations are providing warming shelters and resources, while nonprofits are asking for donations and volunteers.
Winter Storm 2021
As Texas faced record-low temperatures in February 2021 and snow and ice made roads impassable, the state’s electric grid operator lost control of the power supply, leaving millions without access to electricity. As the blackouts extended from hours to days, top state lawmakers called for investigations into the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, and Texans demanded accountability for the disaster. The Texas Tribune covered the impact of the storm in real time and continues to bring accountability coverage as officials address the issues exposed by the storm.More in this series
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Millions of Texans lost power, water or essential services during a winter storm that led to freezing temperatures and hazardous road conditions throughout the state.
City officials, local outreach teams and other organizations are providing warming shelters and support for people seeking help. Many nonprofit organizations are also asking for donations so they can help people experiencing homelessness or those who are in need of support.
Here’s a list of the resources being offered if you need help. We've organized it by location. If you want to skip to just how to help, go here.
Texans who have power in their households can reduce their electricity usage by turning down the thermostats below 68 degrees, unplugging lights and appliances, and avoiding use of large appliances like ovens and washing machines. For people without power or heat, The National Weather Service encourages people to close blinds and curtains, close off rooms and stuff towels in the cracks under the door.
State officials are strongly discouraging unnecessary travel due to the hazardous conditions on the roads caused by the snow and ice. If you are in need of power and are able to travel, the Texas Division of Emergency Management’s website includes a list of warming centers across the state.
Texans can find more details about community resources and warming centers in their area by calling 877-541-7905 or 211, the state’s free 24-hour helpline. Information about specific local resources, assistance and guidance can also likely be found on local city government websites and social media accounts.
Disabled Texans can reach out to the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies for resources and information. The organization can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at the 24/7 disability and disaster hotline at 800-626-4959, which provides assistance to disabled people, their families and other people seeking assistance with disaster-related needs.
Multiple statewide organizations are providing services and seeking donations to help people in the state. The American Red Cross and branches of the Salvation Army of Texas are supporting multiple warming centers across the state, and people can donate on their websites. Feeding Texas’ website includes details about local food banks, and anyone can donate to the organization here.
Mutual aid organizations are also organizing to provide food, housing, support, transportation and other resources to people across the state. Mutual Aid Houston, Austin Mutual Aid, Feed the People Dallas, Para Mi Gente in San Antonio and many other local groups are all seeking donations. People should check social media accounts for these organizations for information about how and what to donate.
How to help
If you have plenty of supplies, or are out of state and looking to provide help, here is a list of organizations you can contribute to:
- Feeding Texas is taking donations here.
- You can donate to the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies here.
- Mutual Aid Houston, Austin Mutual Aid, Feed the People Dallas, Para Mi Gente in San Antonio and many other local groups are all seeking donation
- The Way Home, a coalition of organizations in the Houston area working to prevent homelessness, is asking for donations here
- You can find a list of organizations seeking donations in the Dallas area here.
- Various organizations in Austin are accepting donations to help people who need resources to help the homeless or those in need of resources. The Austin Area Urban League is organizing an emergency drive here and Front Steps, a nonprofit that offers resources to the homeless, is asking for blanket donations here
- The Rio Grande Valley food bank has also launched a winter storm assistance campaign and anyone who wants to help can make a donation here.
Various warming centers have opened in Houston, including at Lakewood Church, National Association of Christian Churches and other locations. The George R. Brown Convention Center opened as a warming center, but it is at full capacity and it is no longer accepting more people, according to KHOU. A list of warming centers can be found on the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston’s website here.
Homeless outreach teams from the sheriff’s office, police department, and homeless outreach groups have worked to provide rides to the warming centers. Houston area residents can call the Harris County Sheriff's Office non-emergency line at 713-221-6000 or 311 for information about shelter or transportation.
The sheriff’s office Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) have been providing items like coats, blankets and tents to people experiencing homelessness who are not in a warming center. People can donate here to any of the organizations in The Way Home, a coalition of organizations working to prevent homelessness.
If you're looking for places to find water, check out this guide via the Houston Chronicle.
Austin officials are encouraging individuals in need of warming shelters to go to Del Valle High School, Mendez Middle School or Reilly Elementary School, which have limited room. The Palmer Events Center is full, and future updates can be found on the City of Austin’s Twitter and Facebook pages. The Austin Disaster Relief Network (ADRN) has also worked to create a list of churches acting as winter shelters.
Austin ISD also has warming centers at Lee Elementary School, Murchison Middle School, Joslin Elementary School and Barrington Elementary School open until 9 p.m. Thursday with limited supplies. Information about the availability can be found on AISD’s Twitter and Facebook.
CapMetro resumed limited services until 8 p.m. Thursday, and fares are suspended until Sunday. People who need transportation to a warming shelter can call 311, and they can call the cold weather shelter hotline at 512-305-ICEE for more information about warming shelters. People can also email email@example.com with their name, phone number address, people needing transport and medical needs, but officials are urging people to reserve the use of the email for the most vulnerable population.
Various organizations in Austin are accepting donations to help people who need resources to help the homeless or those in need of resources. The Austin Area Urban League is organizing an emergency drive here and Front Steps, a nonprofit that offers resources to the homeless, is asking for blanket donations here.
If you're looking to get water, the Austin American-Statesman has a guide here.
The Henry B. González Convention Center is operating through Friday as a warming center, with the San Antonio Food Bank providing meals. Several shelters for people experiencing homelessness have opened at churches, including at Church Under the Bridge, Last Chance Ministries and Life Restored Church. A resource list created by the Christian Assistance Ministry with details about accommodations can be found here, and information from the City of San Antonio can be found here.
Ministries and outreach teams are also looking for volunteers who can safely access the shelters. Outreach teams from DHS, SAMMinistries, Haven for Hope, Corazon Ministries and other organizations have been working to transport people experiencing homelessness to shelter. The South Alamo Regional Alliance for the Homeless is providing details about organizations seeking help on their Facebook page here.
The city of San Antonio’s homeless hotline, at 210-207-1799, is available from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. The hotline will help people experiencing homeless find resources. If people need help outside of those hours, they can leave a voicemail or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you're looking to get water, check out these resources here.
Dallas opened a warming center indefinitely in the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, where people will be provided with a chair, table and light snacks. The center is also hosting a homeless shelter for people experiencing homelessness with cots and blankets. The city is also providing warming stations on coach buses with charging stations. The locations of all the buses can be found here.
Fort Worth has opened the Fort Worth Convention Center as an overnight shelter with cots. The city has also made a list of city-operated warming centers open until 7 p.m. Thursday, as well as a list of warming centers operated by other organizations. People in Fort Worth can call the non-emergency line at 817-392-1234 for directions to one of the city’s warming centers and help with transportation. More details can be found here.
The Dallas Morning News has a guide to finding water here.
Rio Grande Valley
Warming centers have opened across several cities in the Rio Grande Valley, including the Las Palmas Community Center in McAllen, Dustin Sekula Memorial Library in Edinburg, the Ozanam Center in Brownsville and Loaves & Fishes in Harlingen. The city of Mercedes has opened the Safety Dome Shelter "until further notice," according to a Facebook post. The shelters in the area are recommending bringing any prescription medication, I.D., phone chargers and blankets.
The power outages have also left many people in the area without food. The Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley says residents in need of food can call 956-682-8101 and select option 2 for a referral to a nearby food pantry. The food bank has also launched a winter storm assistance campaign and anyone who wants to help can make a donation here.
Check out these guides on how to get help
- Here are the warming centers and shelters now open in the Houston area, via The Houston Chronicle
- Houston-area nonprofits help those in need after wintry weather, via The Houston Chronicle
- LIST: Where to get free bottled water in Houston, via KHOU
- North Texas counties, cities, others open warming shelters for residents without power, via The Dallas Morning News
- How to Help Feed People In Need During Dallas’s Winter Weather Crisis, via Eater Dallas
- How to Help Homeless Dallasites Weather the Storm, via D Magazine
- No power? Here's where to get free firewood, food, water, warmth in North Texas, via WFAA
- List: San Antonio-area warming centers, charging stations for people without power, via The San Antonio Express-News
- Where to Donate Time and Resources Right Now to Help Those in Need in San Antonio, via the San Antonio Mag
- How to help, and what to do if you need it, during Texas' historic freeze, via Austin American-Statesman
- Where to get free water at Texas stores and businesses, via Austin 360
- How people are helping the homeless in the extreme cold, via KVUE
- City officials say warming centers need staffing & transportation help, via KXAN
- El Paso, Sierra Blanca open warming centers due to bitter cold, via KVIA
- Texas snowstorm: Warming centers open in El Paso, Hudspeth and Brewster Counties, via El Paso Times
- List: Where you can get a free meal in the RGV, via KVEO-TV
- Shelters: Where you can go for a warm place to stay in the RGV, via KVEO
- How homeless can have shelter and food during chilling weather, via KFDA
- Keeping Amarillo’s homeless and unsheltered population safe in extreme winter weather, via KAMR-TV
- Looking for shelter from the cold in West Texas?, via Fox West Texas
- “Dangerously Cold.” West Texas Winter Storm Updates, via Marfa Public Radio
- Warming shelters across West Texas, via KOSA
- Warming centers open across East Texas, via KLTV and KTRE
- LIST: Warming shelters open across East Texas, via CBS 19
- Plenty of space at Calallen FEMA Dome warming center, via KENS 5
- Your live guide to winter storm coverage in the Corpus Christi-area, via Corpus Christi Caller-Times
What are we missing? Email us at email@example.com.
Disclosure: Feeding Texas has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
Juan Pablo Garnham and Elvia Limón contributed to this report.
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