Houston woman's act of kindness sparks awareness on need to help others

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A Houston native is helping people who are homeless or in need of food by purchasing community refrigerators.

In just two days, Nina Mayers raised about $1,900 to buy the refrigerators.

Besides those who are homeless, many families struggled to put food on their table as unemployment increased in the U.S.

"I could not just sit and not do anything, knowing that I have the privileges that other people don't," Mayers said. "Whether that be monetary or just access to resources, time, all of those things. There are a lot of disabled folks in Houston. I want to be able to provide all the resources that I have, that other people have the privilege of having, and give back."

Through Facebook, Mayers found another woman in Alief who also bought a community refrigerator.

Mayers started a GoFundMe and is working with local businesses to help house the refrigerators.

"I have one location that is secured in Second Ward, but I'm also looking for more, especially in black-owned businesses in, maybe, Third Ward or just some areas in need where there are people either homeless or black people in need," Mayers said.

Ana Rausch is vice president of program operations for the Coalition for the Homeless. She said there are more than 100 partners in Houston, Harris County and surrounding counties who are working together to address homelessness and help people who experience homelessness find a home.

"We do expect to see a spike in the number of people experiencing homelessness in the coming months as the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are felt," Rausch said. "This is why the coalition is working together with the city and the county on a plan to house more than 5,000 people experiencing homelessness over the next two years."

This plan will cost $65 million and is called the Community-Wide COVID-19 Homeless Housing Program or CHIP.

Marc Eichenbaum, with the Mayor's Office for Homeless Initiatives said the city of Houston is contributing $40 million, and Harris County is contributing $18 million for the CHIP program. The contributions are largely funds allocated through the CARES Act. However, the program is dependent on $6.5 million raised through the community.

"Truly helping the homeless is going beyond just managing the symptoms of homelessness with food and with clothes," Eichenbaum said. "It's really about solving the issue of homelessness, and to do that, we use the data-proven strategy of housing with wrap-around services."

There are countless opportunities to help or to give back in your own way. You can find more information at Volunteer Houston or The Way Home Houston.

"I think this is a great opportunity for all of us to really come together and help mutually," Mayers said. "Whether we are all putting our resources and our energy and our time and our money out there, and we're really helping each other with what we have."

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