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Photo: Earlier this year, Houston Mennonite Church hosted a Know Your Rights training for undocumented individuals. Today, they are raising funds to help undocumented individuals in Houston recover after Tropical Storm Harvey. HMC photo.
Since Tropical Storm Harvey hit Houston Aug. 29, Houston Mennonite Church (HMC) pastor Marty Troyer and other church members have been busy caring for their own needs and those of people in the congregation. They have also been reaching out to others across Houston and surrounding areas who were affected by the flooding.
One way the congregation is ministering to others is helping collect donations for some of the estimated 575,000 undocumented immigrants in Houston. Undocumented immigrants do not qualify for help from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). This means they also may not receive health care, and if they do, they’ll have to go to the “end of the line,” said Troyer in a Sept. 6 phone interview. And given how swamped hospitals and clinics in Houston are right now, said Troyer, pardoning the pun, that will be a long wait.
To help address this need, HMC is working with a local chapter of United We Dream, “the largest
immigrant rights group for young people in the country,” according to its literature. HMC collects donations and sends the money to UWD, which approves grants of $5,000 to qualified applicants.
“We’ve been quiet about the application process,” said Troyer, but both the congregation and UWD know people who are undocumented and in need of assistance.
“Just today,” he said, “I texted a name of a family who have an undocumented member who is in a wheelchair.” The man was trapped in water that rose up to his stomach before he was rescued. “It’s traumatic,” said Troyer.
As of Sept. 6, HMC had raised $42,000 from 530 donors and had commitments of $10,000 more. Most donors learn of the program through a social media campaign from one of the two groups. HMC’s website has had a lot of traffic, said Troyer. He doesn’t know who the donors are, just the amounts donated. “The smallest amount was $4, from an elementary school boy,” Troyer said, while the largest gift was $1,000.
From the comments that accompany the donations, Troyer said he can tell that many of the donors are undocumented themselves.
He said it’s been good to connect with UWD and that “there are ministry opportunities everywhere.”
In addition, two houses of HMC members flooded after the storm. Cleaning up “is a lot of work,” Troyer said. “It’s a learning crisis, and you need a speed education.”
Troyer said he has been encouraged by the many people who have donated to the church and have said they are praying for HMC members and others in Houston. “People from 12 states have donated to the church,” he said.
Those who wish to donate to UWD to help undocumented individuals and families affected by the flooding in Houston may go to www.houstonmennonite.org.
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