As I sip my iced latte at my local coffee shop in suburban Houston, I’m listening to at least four different languages being spoken. I LOVE the cultural diversity of my city and my state – as demonstrated right here in my neighborhood. The Houston metropolitan area has one of the highest concentrations and fastest-growing populations of immigrants and refugees in the country. And right now, to me, it’s on full, glorious display. This makes me smile. But it also makes me realize the importance of embracing, fostering and encouraging this multiculturalism in America … and how close we are to becoming something considerably different than what we have always been.
Our richly diverse culture is susceptible to all sorts of outside forces pushing it out and away, these days especially. And no force is more powerful than a full-scale natural disaster like Hurricane Harvey or any of the other disasters, like floods and tornadoes, that hit many states, including in Texas, this spring.
As research has shown, during every domestic disaster – including Hurricane Harvey – one of the most vulnerable populations affected are our immigrant individuals and families. With risk factors like linguistic isolation or lack of connection to a co-ethnic community or insecure documentation status, immigrants are at great risk before, during and after disaster events. And in many places, resources to support preparedness, response and recovery initiatives for these communities are almost, if not totally, nonexistent.
At the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, we focus our funding efforts to address the needs of the most vulnerable throughout the disaster life cycle. With the CDP Hurricane Harvey Recovery Fund specifically, we’ve partnered with the Houston Immigrant Legal Services Collaborative (HILSC), Equal Justice Works and others, to help these groups secure the resources they need for a holistic and community-wide recovery.