Historic Freeze in Texas Is Especially Dangerous to Vulnerable Populations / Helada histórica es especialmente peligrosa para poblaciones vulnerables

This is a re-posting of a press release from member organization Living Hope Wheelchair Association in Houston, Texas. We know that crises like the snowstorms in Texas hit everyone hard, and that communities of color, low-income communities, and immigrant communities are hit the hardest. We join their call for better support from the state of Texas for particularly vulnerable communities, and thank Living Hope Wheelchair Association for their work in the Houston community.

Houston is in the midst of a historic winter storm that has left 1.2 million people without electricity, water and food. Imagine not being able to stay warm or have food and water to eat. It’s a precarious situation to be in. Imagine trying to survive while being in a wheelchair. At Living Hope Wheelchair Association, we are made up of people with disabilities that are especially vulnerable. Some of the conditions our members are experiencing are:

  • Lack of access to drinking water and food
  • Life-saving dialysis and other medical treatments are cancelled
  • Not having electricity means not being able to power oxygen machines, electric wheelchairs and electric hospital beds
  • Extreme and prolonged cold is extremely dangerous for a person with spinal cord injuries
  • Broken pipes and water spilling damaging apartment or home

All of these are made worse if you are in a wheelchair or have another disability. The Elderly population and mothers with small children are also especially vulnerable in these conditions.

We need to react better for our most vulnerable. We need:

  • More resources for better coordination between the Office of Emergency Management, the 311 system, Metro and all other agencies to oversee relief efforts.
  • Access to dialysis and other medical treatments should be available at shelters.
  • Better availability of water, blankets and food to people that stay in their homes but need help.
  • Better communications, especially in multiple languages.

We were not ready. Our power grid is coordinated by ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. They failed us. They reassured us months earlier that they were ready and capable but they were not. Where was the State of Texas in regulating what ERCOT was doing? This is not just a power failure; this is a leadership failure. The result of years of decisions by Governor Abbot (and Governor Perry before him) and Texas legislature prioritizing the interests and profits of the energy industry instead of the needs of our communities. It is also essential to recognize that this extreme weather event is part of a pattern of climate change. As a society we cannot afford to have leaders that continue to deny science and reject facts for political convenience when the lives and health of so many are at stake.

Living Hope Wheelchair Association was founded in 2005 to respond to the survival needs of immigrants with disabilities. We are made up of immigrants with disabilities and their families. In the past few years, we had to learn how to respond when disasters strike. Whether during Hurricane Harvey, the Covid-19 pandemic or now with this winter storm and historic power failure we know that our communities and our needs “fall through the cracks.”

These cracks have been created by years of policies that discriminate against people of color, people with
disabilities and poor people. We’ve made great strides in Houston preparing and responding to emergencies. Many nongovernmental organizations, foundations and various agencies in the local and county governments have made great improvements in preparing, responding and mitigating disasters. Governor Abbot and ERCOT could learn from our efforts.
Several of our leaders and families from our membership are available for interviews.

We need to remember that we can measure the strength of our democracy by how we treat the most vulnerable among us in times of disaster.

For Immediate Contact:
Tomás Aguilar 737-207-1878
Francisco Argüelles 832-212-2091

For those interested in supporting relief efforts:
Donate to Crowdsource Rescue, and let them know it is to prioritize people with disabilities and the elderly. This group was born out of Hurricane Harvey and has become a great resource for home delivery help for people during COVID-19.

Posted in Health, Member News, News.