Fifth Ward organizers step up to aid with winter storm relief
Weeks after the winter storm devastated Texas, residents of Houston’s Fifth Ward were left behind as the rest of the city recovered. Limited resources and attention to the region led community members to take matters into their own hands.
Led by Marcel McClinton, Fifth Ward organizers Amatullah Contractor and Jacqueline Westman began mutual aid efforts to help people in the Fifth Ward recover after the storm.
“We saw a need, so we stepped up. People can’t survive without water and basic essentials,” said McClinton. “No one had to convince us to go to Fifth Ward.”
The three organizers raised more than $13,000 going towards the winter storm relief efforts. They hope to use the money to help senior citizens and disabled people who have reached out asking for help.
McClinton previously tweeted asking UH students to assist with delivery efforts.
“I believe our common goal in the short term is to work with local universities and community colleges, and young people in general, to be able to respond quickly to the needs of Fifth Ward while also working on midterm and long term solutions,” he said.
Nini Mai, a kinesiology sophomore, echoes the sentiment around the group’s goals, and believes preventative measures or a more appropriate response to the situation was necessary.
“More action could have been taken by leaders of our city, especially in using their voices,” she said.
Mai’s community in Cypress recovered fairly well after the storm, as nothing major happened in their area, she added.
The severity of the storm exacerbated the difficulties the Fifth Ward was already dealing with.
“More than one month after the freeze, residents are still dealing with roof leaks and busted pipes on top of difficulties they were already dealing with,” said Contractor. “For example, the region is a food desert and the vicinity is literally referred to as a cancer cluster.”
“We hope to bring much needed attention to the community and advocate for long term government investment that would offer safer housing, grocery stores and cleaner streets,” she adds.
McClinton and Westman described the reactions they received while delivering supplies to residents.
“We hear a lot of stories from people when they walk up to the truck for supplies. Some have smiles on their faces and feel seen. Others have tears in their eyes,” McClinton said.
“I remember one man who asked why we had shown up to his street. I overheard Jacqueline respond to him by saying, ‘Because we’re friends. You needed us, so we came.’”
Westman says the greatest part about being involved in these efforts is seeing those who she once helped stepping up to serve the community alongside her.
“We need community care to thrive, and that’s what our hope is for Fifth Ward. This community has become not only our friends, but family,” Westman said.
“I hope that in the end, our work is long standing,” McClinton said.
“I hope people in Fifth Ward become a priority to their neighbors down I-10, to government officials at City Hall and in the County and state government.”