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What experts say Hurricane Harvey communities need most

It goes against the grain for many in real estate to simply send a check, but that’s exactly what Houston needs right now
  • Monetary donations are the best contribution do-gooders can make, but be sure to vet charities.

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There is a feeling in the real estate industry that writing a check isn’t enough when it comes to giving — that you have to physically do something to truly make a contribution.

But this week, the Houston Association of Realtors and Giveback Homes both stressed that monetary donations are what’s needed most to help get the real estate community and the whole Houston community get back on its feet.

Large charities with systems set up for these disasters can then allocate what the money is best spent on.

HAR Chief Communications Officer, Matt Burrus, who spent last night washing a group of firemen’s clothes with his neighbors, said: “I totally get that people want to send items and care packages. I think it’s human nature to think just writing a check isn’t enough. When you see this horrific event on the news, you want to do something.

“People don’t feel like going on a website [and] just entering their credit card details. They want to be doing something; they want to physically put something together in a box and mail it.”

But the advice is, please don’t.

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The Red Cross doesn’t accept donations of clothing — only financial monetary donations — and a lot of people don’t realize that, Burrus said.

The real estate community can make contributions to the Texas Association of Realtors relief fund by going to the website and pushing the donate button. The money is being given out in $1,000 portions to both real estate agents and the public in need alike.

According to Burrus, the Houston Association of Realtors has donated $250,000 to the fund, the National Association of Realtors has committed $1 million to it, and a number of other real estate boards near and far are contributing large sums, often from cities that have also experienced disaster.

Burrus stressed that the need would be ongoing in the coming weeks and months.

A moving company in Maryland reached out to Burrus to tell him it is having a fundraiser to benefit Hurricane Harvey victims, but it wouldn’t be able to donate until late September.

“I said yes, that’s fine; there will still be a need in late September,” Burrus said.

The general consensus is that it will take nine months to a year for the city to recover, with an estimated 40,000 homes destroyed. Homes that were flooded from water released from the city’s two main reservoirs will be under water for at least a month, Burrus said.

Take your time deciding how you want to contribute

Lemon Tree Images / Shutterstock

When selecting a local charity to donate to, Burrus recommended people target the main large charities because scams tend to pop up at times like these.

Caroline Pinal, co-founder of Giveback Homes — which put out an initiative last week to raise funds for Hurricane Harvey victims, with up to $10,000 of funds to be matched by Placester — said that people should take their time deciding how and where to contribute.

“Don’t feel pressure to commit. Look for local non-profits that align with your values. It might be schools and education, animals — whatever you connect with most,” she said.

She recommends choosing a charity that’s transparent about where its money is going. If it’s not clear what percentage of proceeds are going to people in need when buying a piece of Hurricane Harvey merchandise, ask the question, she said.

Giveback Homes will be brainstorming this week with its partners in Houston, including Intero Real Estate Services Houston and Habitat for Humanity, about what the needs are going to be in Houston in the coming weeks and months as well as the steps to take next.

Email Gill South.