Many Houstonians have been without power, heat, and water for days since Mother Nature unleashed an unforgiving Arctic Blast on the typically balmy Bayou City at the beginning of this week. Whether you’re in need of help, or are fortunate enough to want to help those in need, here are some things you can do as we all begin to recover from, well, our city and the rest of Texas freezing over: 

If you are in need of assistance:

If you're looking for a warming center:

Although the worst of this weather is almost done, we still have at least one very cold night ahead of us. Businesses, schools, churches, hotels, and recreation centers with power across the Houston area have all opened their doors to those in need of a warm place to call home temporarily, or even a refuge to escape your frigid house or the numbing outside. Take all the heat you can  get (literally) because who knows when you’ll get electricity back. Here’s a list of warming stations in and around Houston. You can also call 3-1-1, or 2-1-1 if you're outside the city, for more information regarding you local warming stations.

If you need groceries:

Perhaps you underestimated the storm. You didn’t think the roads wouldn’t be as icy, thus you didn’t stock up on groceries leading up to the storm (it happens). Or, you did go to the store beforehand, only to find bare isles with few cans of sardines left on the shelves (a reality we know all too well from a year ago). Whatever your situation is, grocery stores around you are, indeed, open.. Check out this list to find what stores are open in your area right now. 

If you need a warm meal:

One of the best ways to feel warmer, obviously, is to raise your body temperature. And you can do just that simply by eating food, dietitians say. Despite what you think, there are restaurants open right now, and some of them are even offering free or pay-what-you-can meals. If you can travel to a restaurant safely, perhaps a warm meal may just be the thing to tide you over until you’re able to cook in your own home again.  Here’s a running list of what is open. 

If you need help with money:

Local grassroots organization Mutual Aid Houston has garnered over $130,000 of donations from people all over the world. They are eager to provide monetary assistance to Houstonians who need it most. Stay tuned to the group's Facebook page to learn how to get help.

If you’re sick and need medical help:

While most of the city has been at a standstill, including doctors offices, illnesses like the common cold or Covid-19 haven't been as forgiving. But, no fear, K Health, a telemedicine smartphone app, is offering free virtual doctor visits for Houstonians right now. If you are stuck at home, or your doctor’s office is closed, just simply hop on the app, choose your symptoms, connect with a doctor, and you’ll soon be on your way to feeling better. Or at least as much as you can feel in this current situation.

How to help:

Donate to a fundraiser.

Although Mutual Aid Houston isn't taking donations anymore, the group conjured up a list of local non-profits who are accepting donations still. Your donation provides funds for food, water, generators, and heaters, which will be given to people in need. You can also donate to organizations benefiting Houston’s houseless community. You can find more information on where to donate here.

Open up your house ... safely.

Believe it or not, there are some households that remained nearly unscathed by the storm and the power outages it brought. If you happen to have power, or a source of heat, reach out to your family, friends, and neighbors who may not be as lucky. However, we are still living amid a pandemic, and while the winter storm may have let up, Covid-19 has not. If you invite people into your home, be sure to social distance and wear a mask.

Lend a helping hand.

An unfortunate symptom of winter storms are pipe breaks, and, heck, there’s been a lot of them in Houston over the past few days. If you’ve got a shop vac, fans, or even plumbing abilities, there are people who may need help mitigating the damages. Check out, perhaps, your neighborhood’s Facebook group page, or any local community forums where people may turn to for help.

Volunteer.

Check around for local volunteer opportunities. Local non-profits have a huge need for assistance right now. Whether you are donating supplies, or helping donation operations run smoothly, anything helps. For up-to-date listings of volunteer opportunities visit volunteerhou.org.

Call a friend, neighbor, or family.

Although Houstonians are no strangers to natural disasters at this point, you never get used to not being able to live comfortably in your own home. Studies show that natural disasters have a direct negative impact on a person’s mental health. People in your life who were negatively impacted by the storm may be struggling, mentally, but won’t tell you. All it takes is one phone call, feasibly, to brighten someone’s day. Here are some tips for how to talk with someone who is struggling with the effects of a natural disaster.

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