HOUSTON – The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Consul General in Houston, Saeed Al Mehairi, and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (exchanging gifts and greetings in photo above) announced yesterday that the UAE is granting $6.5 million to the Greater Houston Community Foundation to help with Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts through homelessness relief, community revitalization, library services and public health expansion in the Houston area.
This gift is part of a $10 million relief pledge from the UAE to the State of Texas. The Greater Houston Community Foundation will oversee, manage and distribute the grant funds to the specific projects. The organization administered the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, founded by Mayor Turner and then-County Judge Ed Emmett.
The gift will support the creation of a short-term housing facility for the Homeless Navigation Center, the construction of a new community center run by local nonprofit Avenue CDC, the re-opening of the Flores Neighborhood Library and the expansion of Houston Health Department services, including new mobile health clinics.
“The UAE has long-standing ties to Houston and the State of Texas, and we are proud to help this great city. We hope these projects will lead to meaningful and measurable changes that improve people’s lives,” said Consul General Al Mehairi. “Houston has been a home away from home for me, and I was personally inspired by the determination shown by all Houstonians to help strengthen their communities and recover after Hurricane Harvey hit.”
Officials from the UAE and the City of Houston worked together to coordinate relief projects that are in line with the City’s broader recovery priorities and the mayor’s Complete Communities project.
“We are extremely grateful to Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba, Consul General Al Mehairi and the people of the United Arab Emirates for this generous gift, the responsible way in which it will be managed and the care taken to ensure that it will provide quality-of-life improvements to Houstonians at a grassroots level,’’ Mayor Turner said. “As Houston builds forward from the hurricane, we cherish our helpful partners such as the UAE.”
“We appreciate the United Arab Emirates’ generosity and concern for our community as we recover from Hurricane Harvey,” said Renée Wizig-Barrios, Senior Vice President and Chief Philanthropy Officer of the Greater Houston Community Foundation. “The Greater Houston Community Foundation is honored to administer these grants to trusted community partners to expand resources for our community and to ensure that resources are available for future disaster recovery. We are proud to partner with the City of Houston in this important effort.”
As a dependable ally and close friend of the United States, the UAE has a track record of providing assistance when US communities are devastated by natural disasters. The UAE previously supported many US communities in the aftermaths of Hurricanes Irma, Sandy and Katrina, and the 2011 tornado that struck Joplin, Missouri.
Homeless Navigation Center
Houston is a national leader in solving homelessness, reducing the area’s homeless population by 55 percent since 2011. However, Hurricane Harvey left more Houstonians homeless and in need.
The Navigation Center will receive approximately $2 million to create and operate a facility designed to increase short-term housing alternatives for the unsheltered homeless population. The facility aims to increase the number of homeless individuals who are permanently housed. The Navigation Center will provide bridge beds for individuals who have been assessed and are awaiting a permanent housing placement, and will operate as a disaster recovery shelter during inclement weather.
Once operational, the Center will operate under a pilot program for two years.
Avenue Training and Education Center
Located in Houston’s Near Northside community, Avenue CDC is a widely respected and effective organization in Houston that aims to build affordable homes and empower the community through achieving a host of educational, infrastructure and public safety goals. Since Hurricane Harvey, Avenue CDC has temporarily hosted its Housing Recovery Resources Center in a vacant building. The organization has helped hundreds of families with needed home repairs and foreclosure prevention, and with onsite assistance for impacted families including utility/rent/mortgage assistance, food, clothes, transportation, furniture and other essential household items.
Avenue CDC will receive approximately $2.6 million to construct a new, permanent location for the Avenue Center. The center will serve as a community resource hub, providing a space for an early childhood education center, post-disaster housing counseling, homeownership programs and an area for general congregation. The new Avenue Center will be located directly north of downtown Houston, and will be equipped to support the community during any potential future weather events or disaster recovery.
“We are very grateful for this transformative gift supporting Avenue’s work to revitalize and strengthen communities,” said Mary Lawler, Avenue’s Executive Director. “This funding will allow Avenue to develop a new community resource hub in Houston’s Near Northside which will provide residents, especially low-income families, with supportive services including homebuyer education and counseling, disaster recovery assistance and early childhood education, which is urgently needed, as neighborhood families face a shortage of early childhood education capacity.”
Flores Neighborhood Library
The Flores Neighborhood Library is a public library located in Houston’s Second Ward. It has been closed since being damaged by the Hurricane Harvey flood.
The city library branch will receive $800,000 to re-build and re-open. The funds will also support upgrades to the library’s programming and computer lab and the purchase of new furniture.
Mobile Health Clinic and Command Center
The Mobile Health Clinic and Command Center, a project with the Houston Health Department, aims to improve the health of children in the Near Northside by controlling pediatric asthma, reducing blood lead poisoning and creating a mobile health unit.
The Houston Health Department will receive approximately $1.1 million to expand the Pediatric Asthma in the Home Stretch Program (PATHS) to three more schools in the Houston Independent School District, test children for blood lead poisoning and create the Children’s Environmental Health Mobile Unit. Funds will support staffing, school stipends, testing supplies, lab services and the creation and maintenance of the mobile unit.
About the United Arab Emirates
The UAE is a source of stability, tolerance, innovation and growth in the Arabian Gulf and around the world. The United States and the UAE are close friends and strong allies, working together to promote regional security, create economic prosperity and address pressing global challenges. In fact, the UAE is the largest export market for US goods in the Middle East, and more US naval vessels visit UAE ports than any other port outside the United States. Cultural, educational and medical partnerships between the UAE and US are spurring innovation, inspiring creativity and increasing understanding in both countries.