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The Guardian

Texans rally to help neighbors in big freeze as officials are caught off guard

With huge gaps in state and local response to the winter crisis, volunteers are rallying to provide life-saving services What caused huge power outages in Texas – a visual explanatory Volunteers pile up crates of water during a water distribution event at the Fountain Life Center in Houston, Texas. Photo: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images Sign up for the Guardian’s First Thing newsletter When a deadly arctic blast hit Texas, Austin law student Kenna Titus panicked over whether she and her partner would be able to keep themselves and their dog warm, and if friends and neighbors had what they needed. Then came the torrent of suffering. An apartment complex for the elderly went without water for days, heating centers were closed due to power and water outages, and children with cancer languished in a hospital, desperate to find help. the food. “Everywhere I go, I only see people who have failed completely,” Titus said, adding to widespread criticism from elected officials in Texas caught cold by the storm. “They weren’t prepared. They weren’t told to prepare. There was no way for them to prepare. On Wednesday and Thursday, Titus collected online donations from his neighbors, risked slippery and icy roads to haul soup, muffins and tacos to the local children’s hospital, and handed out croissants, cups of fruit and water to people in a cold weather shelter filled to capacity. . “It shouldn’t be my job, and my neighbors’ job, to run around trying to find bottled water to give to children in a cancer ward,” she said. “I’m happy to do it, and my neighbors are happy to do it, but it’s just ridiculous.” As millions of Texans were left without safe shelter, clean water or food, Good Samaritans and self-help collectives backed by a wave of national support attempted to fill the void left by officials who fumbled with the management of record storm emergencies. Dori Ann Upchurch is helped by Austin Disaster Relief Network volunteer Cody Sandquist, left, and Red Cross volunteer at a warming station in Austin, Texas. Photograph: Jay Janner / AP “It’s no wonder to see people in need,” said Zach Price, who also weathered the storm in Austin, “but to see their needs not being met under the circumstances. also difficult. I mean, I think you should be callous not to be a little surprised about it, you know? It’s shocking to see, even if it’s not surprising. After learning that his alma mater, the University of Texas, still asks students to eat in his mess halls, he offered to cover the cost of a few meals on Twitter. More and more donors began to participate, creating an impromptu welfare fund that gave students $ 10 or $ 20 and supported other Texans in need. When Price himself lost power and cellular data, he handed over his Venmo and Twitter accounts to a friend so the urgent cash flow could continue. “I’m really happy that I was able to help people,” he said. But is a 23-year-old with a Twitter account becoming the main source of food for some Austinites? “It’s a huge problem.” In San Antonio, where Trinity Mutual Aid students raised more than $ 67,000 in two days, lead organizers handed out safety net payments of $ 150. Volunteers distribute cases of bottled water at the parking lot of the Schlitterbahn Water Park in Galveston, Texas. Photograph: Thomas Shea / AFP / Getty Images’ It is unbelievably, unbelievably difficult and morally exhausting trying to decide who deserves funding or not, because it is very clear that all of these people deserve help that the government does not. ‘is not. provide, ”said Rachel Kaufman, a lead organizer of the collective. When local authorities received a call from a family of six – including a child with diabetes – who were running out of food, Kaufman intervened, sending relief for the overdue bills and promising to deliver groceries as soon as possible. it would be safe to drive. She listened to someone from the county commissioner’s office type her information into their system, so they could send people to her. The city was not going to help. “We have county representatives who are not able to provide for their community, so they send it to a group of 20 year olds who are doing more for the community than they are now,” Kaufman said. In an ideal world, the government would meet the needs of its citizens and mutual aid would take a healthier form, said Christina Tan, organizer from Houston: “Not like, please send us $ 100 because someone a freeze to death. ” At least 10 people have died of hypothermia in Harris County, Houston, while hundreds more have been poisoned with carbon monoxide while trying to escape the freezing cold in homes without electricity. “I wish it hadn’t and had been out of necessity,” Tan said. After raising more than $ 235,000 through a GoFundMe campaign, his Mutual Aid Houston team planned to distribute two waves of direct funds: one to meet immediate needs, such as food and heat sources, another for children. long-term costs such as burst pipes, electric bills and high medical bills resulting from the crisis. They were already responding to an overwhelming number of requests on Thursday, but they could only hear from Houstonians with access to the internet, phone signal and power. Tan expected that there would be a lot more to come. Democratic Congressmen Sheila Jackson Lee, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sylvia Garcia help distribute food at the Houston Food Bank. Photograph: Elizabeth Conley / AFP / Getty Images Susana Edith, founder of Lucha Dallas, had started looking for tents, backpacks, travel toiletries, hygiene and feminine products, non-perishable goods, water, clothes and shoes for the neighbors who would soon make him leave the hotels and shelters. “We’re trying to start preparing for what’s going to happen after the snow melts, and, for example, these homeless people are returning to the streets,” she said. “Many of them, their belongings were either stolen or taken and thrown away.” Temperatures are finally climbing statewide and after days of impassable roads, closed businesses and emptied grocery stores, conditions are slowly returning to normal. Yet for many people whose world has been turned upside down, the crisis is far from over. “The concern arises a month from now, when people are trying to fix their pipes, when they’re still behind on bills from these incidents, when we’re still running out of water,” Kaufman said. “So when do people stop donating?”

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