Since March, the team at Family Houston has assisted 1,300 households. (Courtesy Family Houston)
Houston nonprofit Family Houston is likely the only of its kind to have survived a smallpox epidemic, the 1918 Spanish flu, the Great Depression and countless other challenges that mirror today’s seemingly unprecedented times.
Family Houston, originally called United Charities, was formed in 1904 as a way to connect the city’s most vulnerable with needed resources. From food to employment coaches to mental health counseling, the organization’s goal is to introduce stability into struggling residents’ lives.
Spurred by new needs after a smallpox outbreak following the devastating 1900 hurricane, Family Houston now relies on its past to meet the challenges presented by the coronavirus outbreak and its subsequent fallout.
“We have responded to disasters throughout our history,” said Liz Green, vice president of development for Family Houston. “And here we are again.”
The organization moved services such as case management, mental health counseling, job coaching and financial planning online to meet the needs of current clients without putting them in harm’s way. A new series of Facebook Live events covering mental health, veterans services and child care have garnered more interest from newcomers seeking ways to balance financial and personal needs.
Since March, Family Houston has assisted 1,300 households, Green said.
“The biggest need is loss of income or reduced pay or lost jobs,” Green said. “We have employment coaches who are able to connect people or start building resumes, and we’re saying, ‘Let’s start thinking about the future and moving forward.’”
Despite Family Houston’s enduring nature, Green said the coronavirus outbreak has limited the organization’s ability to raise funds and awareness.
“This is drastically different than [Hurricane] Harvey for our community and for nonprofits, because with Harvey, people all over the country and all over the world would put money in to help us,” she said. “Things are different now, and everyone is looking at their own disasters.”
However, when bans on public gatherings put Family Houston’s largest fundraiser of the year on hold, Green said donors who had already committed donations were more motivated than ever to maintain their financial support.
“The catchphrase for now is, ‘We’ll make it work,’’ Green said.
4625 Lillian St., Houston