Giving Compass’ Take:
• Kate Vickery illustrates the devastating choices that undocumented families face as they struggle to cope with the aftermath of natural disasters.
• How can funders help to close the service gaps for undocumented families after disasters?
• Learn about how to help after a disaster.
In early September 2017, I was standing in the north Houston home of a mother whose trailer was covered in mold up to shoulder height. She was describing the devastating damage that Hurricane Harvey had caused to her home and the fact that FEMA had inexplicably denied her claim for assistance.
The woman from that story was fortunate to have advocates in her corner including the wonderful folks from Fe y Justicia Worker Center, one of the only worker centers in Texas. Fe y Justicia was one of the six organizations that we made Harvey-recovery grants to, using our unique participatory grantmaking model. These grants were limited to helping undocumented and mixed-status individuals and families. The complex trauma of trying to recovery from a natural disaster while facing potential deportation and an invisible wall of policies threatening immigrant families came through loud in clear in the stories from our grantees.
We had a client who had a total of six people in her household, including very young toddlers. The trailer she lived in had a mold infestation and the smell of mold was dominating. After talking with her about mold dangers and mold remediation, she asked us a question: ‘Should I spend the cash stipend you gave me to get rid of the mold or to pay a lawyer to help get my husband out of detention?’ We found out that a few days earlier her husband had been detained by ICE. She now knew the dangers of mold, especially for the children, but she was conflicted because her husband was the sole worker in the house, and she knew the children needed their father. She wanted to get a lawyer to help with her husband’s case, but she had children that she needed to make sure were living in a healthy and safe environment. We advised her to use the cash stipend in the way she thought best. We advised her of organizations that could possibly help her with her husband’s legal situation. It’s a horrible choice to have to make: mold or legal representation.
Read the full article about hard choices for undocumented families by Kate Vickery at Center for Disaster Philanthropy.
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