With COVID-19 still disrupting our lives, now more than ever many people in our community are in desperate need of help. But even with stimulus payments, PPP loans, rental assistance, and unemployment benefits - some people are still being left behind. One viewer contacted us after she says she’s tried everything and can’t seem to get any assistance. We are getting answers and have information that we hope can help other families too.
“There was just blood everywhere - they rushed me to the hospital,” explains Regina West.
53-year-old Regina West was once a successful owner of two record stores and a beautiful home. But she lost it all after a brutal attack by a group of men in 2019.
“They tackled me and I blacked out. When I came too, they were behind me,” Regina explains. “The next thing I knew I was knocked out - I was hit over the head with a gun.”
Regina spent months recovering and wasn’t able to keep up with her business and then her payment for taxes on her house. She ended up homeless and in desperate need of help.
“I kinda went into a depression after that,” she said. “I lived in that van for four months.”
Not easy finding help
Regina says she tried everything she could think of but thinks there is just not a category she fits into to even apply for services.
“You know for the single person,” said Regina. “To be able to qualify to maybe have rental assistance, even though I don’t have a family or I’m not elderly or disabled. I’d like to have the ability to file for financial aid and to be seen.”
Charity groups in Houston are dealing with an unprecedented number of people in need.
“We’ve already distributed close to two million dollars from our own funding that we received from our donations and we’ve given close to three point five million pounds of food to the community,” said Karina Hernandez, Director of Community Relations, Catholic Charities.
Karina Hernandez with Catholic Charities (Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston) understands why Regina and others might feel hopeless.
“I think people get so discouraged and say, ‘I called one agency they weren’t able to help me so no one is going to be able to help us.’”
Three tips for finding help
Karina says there is help out there. Sometimes you just need to know how to go about getting it. Here’s her advice:
- Prioritize your budget to get the help you need most. So, if you have to make a decision between buying food for your family or paying your light bill, you should pay your light bill and go to Catholic Charities for food. Catholic Charities has NO restrictions on food donations and they don’t ask for income level or immigration status.
- Try applying for help from nonprofits that do not only rely on federal funding. Federal funding means there might be restrictions or qualifications to meet in order to receive help. Examples of nonprofits would be faith-based groups like Interfaith Ministries or the Salvation Army.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help! You don’t have to do all of this homework on your own. Call the United Way at 2-1-1 to get help connecting with the best groups for you. Each person who calls is given resources available to them.
United Way’s Thanh Nguyen says what Regina is dealing with is common right now.
“In her situation, some people - realistically are going through the same thing,” said Thanh. “They may not meet some of the program guidelines or eligibility requirements so they need a little more help in advocating for them to access their services.”
Regina, like so many others, has never had to ask for help before.
“It can be overwhelming,” Thanh explains. “(United Way will) walking them through it, helping them understand and give them HOPE that there are resources available.”
Hope for Regina, that the waves of change and better days are ahead for her and so many others.
The United Way was able to connect Regina to resources for food, rent, and unemployment help. The United Way can also help people find childcare, food stamps, or even care for an aging parent.
List of Resources mentioned in our story
Unemployment benefit services - Texas Workforce