In the past week, it’s been reported that more than 43,000 people in the United States were displaced by Hurricane Harvey and forced to seek shelter in emergency evacuation centers. And now, hurricane Irma is threatening south east region with a category 5 storm.
These powerful natural disasters can leave us with virtually nothing—homes destroyed, possessions obliterated and lives lost.
But there's something else that can be ripped away from these vulnerable individuals. It's the simple and often forgotten aspects of privacy and dignity.
While large rooms, gymnasiums and auditoriums are common "go to" sites for shelter, they often end up as a solution that yields other problems.
Humanitarian aid organization ShelterBox is bringing privacy and comfort to the evacuees through the distribution of its Shelter-in-a-Shelter tents.
After George R. Brown Convention Center, the largest shelter in Houston housing evacuees, surged to more than 10,000 people this week, ShelterBox has been setting up its Shelter-in-a Shelter humanitarian tents. The tents now serve as critically needed private spaces for healthcare, lactation stations, AA meeting locations, and places of worship at George R. Brown Convention Center. ShelterBox is also distributing blankets, solar lights, groundsheets, and school kits.
A ShelterBox response team, joined by Kerri Murray, President of ShelterBox USA, has been working across the affected areas, and was on site at George R. Brown Convention Center to help coordinate the set-up of the tents this week.
“It’s hard enough to lose your home and be traumatized by the massive devastation of a disaster. In these times, critical community services and support can be disrupted. We are providing the privacy tents to enable services to continue and a sense of normalcy to return. Women who are nursing still need places to breastfeed. People need places to receive counseling and attend AA and substance support meetings. People need places to worship,” says Murray. “In coordination with the Red Cross and Department of Public Health in Houston, ShelterBox USA set up Shelter-in-a-Shelter solutions that now serve as private spaces for HIV/STD consultation, lactation stations, places of worship, and more.”
At a shelter in Crosby, Texas, Shelter Box distributed tents for displaced families, half of whose homes washed away in the hurricane. Many of these vulnerable families have young children and are living in a shelter set up at the American Legion Club. “A woman who is seven months pregnant had tears in her eyes as she accepted a shelter tent as a place to temporarily call home,” Murray said.
Cindy and Gordon lost their home after water from the San Jacinto River rose and flooded the mobile home park in which they lived. “It's our new house," she said sitting inside her new tent. "We just got out with what we could, and we got out before a lot of other people did. We got out when the water started coming up. There are no words to describe it. I mean I can't believe these people coming to help us like this, it's so great. I feel like I'm in a big home (the tent). It's the best home we've had yet."
ShelterBox is widely known for its rapid response to natural disasters around the world, offering a variety of tented shelters to meet the immediate need of survivors made homeless in crisis situations. ShelterBox is the Project Partner of Rotary International in disasters. Typically, the ShelterBox tented shelters are used in outdoor settings. But, in the case of Hurricane Harvey, ShelterBox deployed the indoor tent/Shelter-in-a-Shelter solution to provide privacy in a congregated setting.
Since 2000, ShelterBox has responded to hundreds of emergencies, in 103 countries. “Before Hurricane Harvey made landfall, ShelterBox USA was mobilizing to help fill the shelter-related gaps. And it quickly became apparent that the gaps were going to be massive,” says Murray. “While our goal is to deliver shelter and other essential non-food items to displaced people, at the same time, we want to support the extraordinary needs of the community in the most compassionate and helpful way possible. The Shelter-in-a-Shelter is certainly innovative in shelter care in the United States. We began using this solution in Japan after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, providing a private place to shelter displaced families in an indoor congregated setting.”
Immediately after Hurricane Harvey’s devastation, a ShelterBox Response Team was activated on the ground to assess the need for emergency shelter in Houston and other impacted areas. ShelterBox is planning to distribute more tents, solar lights, school kits, groundsheets, and blankets in the region as it continues to coordinate with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), National Voluntary Agencies Active in Disaster (NVOAD), local city and state agencies, and other non-profits, to determine urgent shelter and aid needs,” Murray said.
ShelterBox USA receives Charity Navigator’s highest 4-star rating and is recognized in its list of Charities Providing Assistance in the Wake of Hurricane Harvey. The nonprofit has established a designated fund to support the relief efforts in Texas: https://www.shelterboxusa.org/harvey/
ShelterBox has helped more than one million people worldwide rebuild their lives. It's provided help and hope following some of the world's most devastating disasters: Haiti's earthquake in 2010; Japan's Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011; Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013; massive flooding in Malawi and Malaysia in 2015; and the two massive earthquakes that shook Nepal in 2015. Some of the ShelterBox deployments in the United States include: Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy, and the 2013 tornadoes in Moore, Oklahoma. ShelterBox is currently also providing emergency shelter to families who have lost their homes in Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Cameroon, Niger, Colombia, Somaliland and Nepal. It responded to the last tropical storm to threaten the U.S. in 2016 as Hurricane Matthew cut through Haiti, Cuba, and on to the Eastern seaboard of the U.S. For the latest on ShelterBox deployments, visit ShelterBoxUSA.