HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- ABC13 Houston brought together leaders for a town hall meeting highlighting resources available to those feeling the economic impact of COVID-19.
The virtual assistance relief event, hosted by ABC13's Ted Oberg, featured panelists Brian Greene, Houston Food Bank president and CEO; Cristina Cave, a community relations senior manager at Baker Ripley; Dana Karni, an attorney at Lone Star Legal Aid and Thanh Nguyen, senior manager of Service Delivery and Strategic Initiatives at United Way Houston.
Karni said Lone Star Legal Aid, a nonprofit law firm, is dedicated to providing services to families throughout the pandemic, including working with a group that provides eviction defense in Harris County and Houston.
"We do continue to accept cases, both for representation in court and for providing legal services and legal advice over the phone in a wide variety of issues, and that includes housing, family safety, public benefits, employment, consumer and other civil legal needs throughout a 72-county service area in Texas," she said.
The nonprofit provides free civil-legal aid, and said when reaching out, "Callers should be ready to answer questions about their household demographics, income and assets, because we offer holistic legal services. Our intake department also asks questions like whether someone is a veteran, disaster survivor, or survivor of crime or sexual assault to determine if there are other services we can offer."
In July, the Houston Food Bank served about 147,436 households every week, compared to the previous year when 64,808 households were served weekly.
Greene said assistance is actually easier to get now, because all residents have to do is attend a distribution center without even needing to get out of their vehicle.
"We're still running at about double the normal distribution," he said. "The community stepped up so we continue to keep doing this to try to help."
Baker Ripley is also managing a rental relief program for people who are renting both apartments or homes.
"The first step is to make sure that your landlord has enrolled in the program, because unless your landlord is enrolled or your property is enrolled, you won't be able to apply," Cave said.
Residents can check if their landlord or apartment complex is enrolled online,. and if not, you can reach out to your landlord and ask them to enroll. The deadline for landlords to enroll is Aug. 26.
Tenants can start applying for the program on Monday, Aug. 24 through Sunday, Aug. 30.
"Unlike the first round where it was first-come, first-serve, now, the tenants will have the whole, almost one week, to enroll," Cave said. "We will be analyzing, and it will be needs-based."
Nguyen encourage residents who need assistance to call 2-1-1, where someone will be able to connect them to resources based on their specific needs.
"The sudden loss of jobs, wages and child care has created an unprecedented economic crisis. Especially for those most vulnerable in our community who were already struggling with the pandemic," she said. "
Since the start of the pandemic, United Way has already helped 95,532 renters, and also helped 76,710 people with utilities, and 37,862 people get connected with COVID-19 testing.