It’s been two weeks since Texas was blanketed in snow, but there are still many who are struggling in its aftermath. Mutual aid groups, as we reported earlier, have housed and fed folks in need across the region. Last Saturday, Harvest Project Food Rescue helped distribute cases of water, produce boxes, and hot meals to families in East Dallas. Staff Meal continues its Snowmageddon free meal program. Although the freeze has thawed, displaced families remain.
As we enter March, organizations like Not My Son continue to shelter people in hotels.
“A lot of people came in with no water and no electricity” in the beginning, says Tramonica Brown, the founder of Not My Son (and a Dallas City Council candidate for District 7 in South Dallas.) “Now, we’re still in the middle of our water crisis. We have a lot of people who still don’t have running water or who have parasites in it. And that’s a nightmare.”
Brown says people came to the organization with just the clothing on their backs. Other lost their homes. Federal, state, and local aid requires paperwork and patience, which doesn’t jibe with the immediate need of running water and a roof over their heads.
“Meaning that there’s nowhere for them to go. So this is their actual, you know, residence with us right now until, you know, we we’re no longer able to do this,” says Brown.
Every day since the storm rolled in, families check out of the hotel each morning at 11 a.m. If Not My Son can afford it, the organization checks them back in for another night. But there have been days when the money runs out.
“At one point we were spending close to 50 grand a day on housing different people in the Metroplex,” says Brown. At first, the group used hotels from Fort Worth to Dallas to Plano, all the way to Bedford. They’ve since consolidated to just a couple of hotels in Dallas.
Not My Son has been using the La Quinta Inn & Suites in North Dallas as a de facto headquarters, where volunteers are coordinating water, diaper, and clothing donations, as well as food drop-offs. Chicken Express swung by the hotel with meals. Restaurants like Hawaiian Bros., Hopdoddy Burger Bar, Roots Chicken Shak, and others have provided meals to these families in limbo.
Here’s a thread of the restaurants and organizations that have helped us the first week of the #TexasFreeze2021 at our hotel placement location.
Bee Hive Lodge 2 feeds the unhoused once a month in downtown and came to feed 150 pounds of chicken for our placement hotel location. pic.twitter.com/s7tZok5flA
— Not My Son (@NotMySonDFW) February 22, 2021
It has helped 600 families to date—and counting.
“Our list still grows. We just had 17 more [people] this morning,” says Brown, confirming that, yes, “people are still in need—we’ve had people leave and return back because their pipes burst again.”
These families now must worry about flooding, mold, toxic water, or a combination thereof. Not My Son has connected families with home improvement groups and plumbers to help with repairs. The organization linked up with other nonprofits to find furniture for those whose belongings caught on fire when they were trying to stay warm during the storms. Not My Son has also been on the phone with city housing authorities to relocate folks into more semi-permanent residences.
Brown was candid about how very difficult the last two weeks have been, the significant amount of mental capacity that is required to accept what isn’t in your control despite your intent.
“With some of the mothers…it was the most heartbreaking for me,” says Brown, adding that they’d feed their children and go without eating anything themselves. Not My Son brought in therapists and spiritual healers. “We’re in a battle now where mental health is extremely important, because we don’t know what tomorrow is gonna look like.” Afterward, she says, everyone was in much better spirits, considering.
As for kids, Not My Son has set up a tutoring program and enrichment time, a service it provided to communities long before the stormy weather. Although this is Not My Son’s biggest hurdle to date, Brown ensures they’re staying true to their mission: social activism, community outreach, and civic engagement.
“We’ve marched people to the polls. We’ve registered about 300 people to vote. And we’re still registering people to vote here,” says Brown. “It’s all about voter education [and] who to hold accountable… That way people can know to direct that energy forward and implement change.”
Brown recognizes that once this immediate need subsides, the organization must shift its efforts to advocate for public policies that protect the very people they’re putting up in hotels.