October 20, 2020
Serving Neighborhoods Bulletin
DEPARTMENT OF NEIGHBORHOODS NEWS
OCTOBER IS NATIONAL CODE COMPLIANCE MONTH
The City of Houston joins communities across the country in the observance of National Code Compliance Month during October, led by the American Association of Code Enforcement, to recognize the important role city code enforcement officers play to help maintain safe communities.
During the pandemic, Houston code enforcement teams continue their work as essential workers, deploying to locations throughout the city to inspect homes, apartments, commercial buildings, streets and sidewalks for the safety of Houstonians.
The city’s cadre of code enforcement officers work under several city departments, including the Department of Neighborhoods (DON), the Houston Fire Department (HFD) and Houston Public Works (HPW).
View HTV Public Service Announcement:
Hear from Mayor Sylvester Turner, DON Director TaKasha Francis, HFD Chief Samuel Peña and HPW Director Carol Haddock.
Click on link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGNams1ChDY&feature=youtu.be
Learn about city code enforcement:
Department of Neighborhoods: www.houstontx.gov/ips
Houston Public Works: www.houstonpermittingcenter.org/building-code-enforcement
Houston Fire Department: www.houstontx.gov/fire/HFMO
DON INSPECTIONS AND PUBLIC SERVICE – WE’VE MOVED TO A NEW LOCATION!
DON’s Inspections and Public Service (IPS) has relocated from its longtime location at 7125 Ardmore to 601 Sawyer, Suite 110, Houston, TX 77007. During the pandemic, in-person assistance is being kept to a minimum and preferably by appointment only. Residents can receive assistance by phone by calling our IPS Call Center at 832-394-600.
About Inspections and Public Service
DON’s IPS division works to keep neighborhoods clean and safe through the enforcement of single-family residential property code compliance as pertains to overgrown lots, dangerous buildings, junk accumulation, inoperable motor vehicles and graffiti. IPS also enforces codes that prohibit bandit signs on city property and right of way. IPS crews and contractors carry out abatements to remove blight and hazards when property owners fail to comply, and liens are placed on the properties. The division’s administrative section manages liens and dangerous building hearings. IPS Call Center staff helps residents with questions about notices and citations issued by the department and steps they need to take to bring their properties into compliance. DON outreach staff provides support for these efforts by working with residents, volunteers and community partners to educate the public about city codes and carry out neighborhood cleanup and beautification projects.
NEIGHBORHOOD MATCHING GRANTS AVAILABLE TO NONPROFIT COMMUNITY GROUPS
Application Deadline is November 6!
The 2020 application period for the Neighborhood Matching Grant Program is open! The program supports neighborhood beautification and improvement projects by providing dollar-for-dollar matching grant reimbursements ranging from $500 to $5,000. The application deadline is November 6, 2020.
- Neighborhood-based organizations and civic clubs with State of Texas 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) non-profit certification are eligible to apply.
- Neighborhood-based organizations without official nonprofit status may apply in partnership with a 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) organization as co-applicant.
- Grant projects must represent a specific geographic area located within the Houston city limits.
The Neighborhood Matching Grant Program is administered by the Department of Neighborhoods in partnership with participating Houston City Council offices.
The program is designed to encourage civic activity among neighbors, promote volunteerism, and support projects that contribute towards building stronger communities.
For the application form and guidelines, go to http://houstontx.gov/neighborhoods/Matching-Grant-App-Packet-FY2021.pdf.
VIRTUAL CLASSES FOCUS ON LEGAL ISSUES IN THE PANDEMIC
The Department of Neighborhoods and community partners continue to serve Houstonians, offering “A Month of Service” free classes online. The classes cover legal issues surrounding a range of topics, explored in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The topics include estate planning, taxes, employment, evictions and child custody and divorce. Our community partners and presenters include Neighborhood Recovery Community Development Corporation (NRCDC), Harris County Appraisal District, Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector’s Office, Houston Volunteer Lawyers, TSU Earl Carl Institute and Lone Star Legal Aid.
October Classes – Register Now
- Create Your Estate Plan in a Time of COVID-19, Oct. 22, 1-3 p.m.
- Child Custody and Divorce During COVID-19, Oct. 27, 1-3 p.m.
November Classes – Registration starts November 1
- Property Tax Value Protest Hearings, Exemptions and Payment Options, Nov. 3, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
- Consumer Concerns & Bankruptcy during COVID-19, Nov. 5, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
- Estate Planning and Holographic Wills during COVID-19, Nov. 10, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
- Evictions During COVID-19 - Know Your Rights, Nov. 12, 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.
- How to Handle Inherited Property & Clearing Title, Nov. 17, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
- Working During COVID-19 – Know Your Rights, Nov. 19, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
- Create Your Own Estate Plan in a Time of COVID-19, Nov. 24, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
To register, go to NRCDC Houston’s calendar of events at https://www.nrcdc.org/site/getregistered and click on the link to the date/class of interest. If you don’t have access to the internet, you can register by phone at 346-339-1088. You will be able to participate in the sessions by phone.
All classes are recorded and links to the recorded sessions are posted online at https://www.facebook.com/nrcdc.houston.
ADVANCE REGISTRATION FOR WILLS CLINICS
Residents are invited to register in advance for future Wills Clinics to be conducted by our community partners, Houston Volunteer Lawyers and Lone Star Legal Aid. The Wills Clinic dates and details will be announced later.
The Wills Clinics are staffed by volunteer lawyers who provide legal services free of charge to prepare wills and other essential legal documents for clients and their families.
Interested persons may register by phone or in person at one of two scheduled drive-in events. The drive-in events offer registrants the opportunity to speak briefly with volunteer lawyers about the kinds of legal documents they need and information and records they should gather in preparation for the Wills Clinics.
Drive-in Advance Registration for Lone Star Legal Aid Wills Clinic (Date TBA)
October 26, 8 a.m. to 12 noon
Jones Memorial Methodist Church, 2504 Almeda Genoa Rd., Houston, TX 77047
Or register by phone: 713-652-0077
Drive-in Advance Registration for Houston Volunteer Lawyers Wills Clinic (Date TBA)
October 28, 2020, 8 a.m. - 12 noon,
The Church at Bethel’s Family, 12660 Sandpiper Drive Houston, TX 77035
Or register by phone: 713-228-0735
Please consider volunteering to help at these drive-in events. COVID-19 health safety protocols will be followed. To volunteer, click on links below.
October 26, 8 a.m. – 12 noon: https://x.gldn.io/zZkFVIVZrab
October 28, 8 a.m. – 12 noon: https://x.gldn.io/adOWQy4Yrab
SUBSCRIBE TO NEIGHBORHOOD UPDATES!
There’s a new easy and convenient way to receive announcements about COVID-19 recovery resources and essential city services! Subscribe to Neighborhood Updates to receive phone voice or text messages in English or Spanish. We especially invite seniors and others who may not have easy access to the internet, persons with disabilities who require communications by voice or text, and residents who prefer information in Spanish. To subscribe to Neighborhood Updates, call 3-1-1. You will have the option of receiving voice messages or texts in English or Spanish.
Información en español: http://houstontx.gov/neighborhoods/updates/esp/index.html
PANDEMIC RECOVERY – SERVICES & RESOURCES
FIGHTING COVID-19 - BETTER. TOGETHER.
Let’s work Better Together by following COVID-19 prevention practices:
WASH HANDS ┃ WEAR A MASK
SOCIAL DISTANCE ┃ GET TESTED
For official City of Houston COVID-19 updates, news, testing sites and recovery resources, including multilingual information, go to HoustonEmergency.org/covid19. For a list of recovery services and resources, click on the following link: https://houstonrecovers.org/covid19/.
COVID-19 TESTS – FREE + FAST + SAVE
Getting tested for #COVID19 empowers you to protect your family, friends and co-workers. City of Houston Health Department and agency partner offer free testing. Anyone can get free testing regardless of symptoms. Proof of citizenship and insurance is not required. To register for testing at a site operated by the Houston Health Department or inquire about other testing sites nearest you, call the COVID-19 Call Center at 832-393-4220 between 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. or visit HoustonEmergency.org/covid19 to find a site near you.
TESTING SITES - WEEKLY SCHEDULE
For a weekly schedule of testing sites, click on link: https://houstonemergency.org/covid-19-testing/.
IN-HOME COVID-19 TESTING
The Houston Health Department’s Harris County Area Agency on Aging (HCAAA) is offering free in-home COVID-19 testing for Houston residents. There are no restrictions nor eligibility requirements. A limited number of tests are available on a first call, first served basis. To make an appointment for a test to be administered in your home, call 832-393-4301.
COVID-19 RENTAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
The BakerRipley COVID-19 Rental Assistance Program, funded by Harris County and the City of Houston, is providing rental assistance to residential tenants who live within the City of Houston and/or Harris County and are experiencing an economic hardship as a result of COVID-19. The program will continue to accept tenant applications and landlord enrollments until all funds have been awarded.
Landlord Enrollment: Landlords can sign up as Participating Landlord once they agree to the terms and conditions of the program. Landlords will be paid directly by BakerRipley on behalf of eligible Tenants. Landlord enrollment is intended for residential rental properties located within Harris County and/or the City of Houston.
Tenant Applications: Tenants whose landlords are enrolled in the program as Participating Landlords may apply for rental assistance for past due rent. If a tenant is approved for assistance, the landlord will be paid directly by BakerRipley.
For eligibility requirements and to apply, go to www.bakerripleyrenthelp.org/.
COVID-19 EVICTION MORATORIUM
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a nationwide temporary eviction moratorium for certain tenants through December 31, 2020. Additionally, the Texas Supreme Court has issued an order in support of the CDC's declared moratorium.
Are you eligible?
For more information about the COVID-19 eviction moratorium and eligibility requirements, click on the following link: http://houstontx.gov/housing/landing/cdc-eviction.html
How to talk to your landlord:
For tips on how to talk to your landlord about past due rent, click on the following link: http://houstontx.gov/housing/renters/landlords/How-To-Talk-To-Landlord-Final-V3-092520.pdf.
For assistance by phone, call the Eviction Defense Coalition Hotline at 713-982-7340.
MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT SERVICES
The Houston Health Department has launched Let’s Beat COVID-19, Health Education and Support Services to help people adjust mentally and emotionally to stress and challenges brought on by the pandemic.
The program offers a helpline accessible 7 days per week from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. through December 24. People may call 713-999-9442 to reach a trained mental health professional who will provide appropriate intervention and follow-up. The program will also offer virtual support groups, toolkits, trainings, and other resources to support people’s mental and emotional needs.
Funded by the CARES Act, the services are available to anyone, with a focus on high positivity zip codes, parents and guardians of school-age children dealing with virtual learning stressors, childcare providers, teachers and city employees working on the frontlines of the pandemic.
The Houston Food Bank continues to provide food assistance through its many partners agencies and pantries across the region. For a map of food distribution locations, go to www.houstonfoodbank.org/find-help/agency-locator/. For other sources of food assistance, visit https://houstonrecovers.org/covid19food/.
FREE FINANCIAL COUNSELING
The Financial Empowerment Centers (FEC) provide one-to-one, professional financial counseling to Houstonians at no cost. The service is an initiative of the Mayor’s Office of Complete Communities supported by Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund and Regions Bank. FEC Counselors provide guidance on to how to manage your money, pay down debt, increase savings, establish and build credit, and access safe and affordable mainstream banking products.
All services are free and available to all residents regardless of income. Counseling assistance is available in both English and Spanish. For more information and to make an appointment, go to http://www.houstontx.gov/fec/index.html.
FREE LEGAL ASSISTANCE
Help to Fight Evictions
Local legal groups are working together to help Houston area residents fight evictions. Go to www.hba.org/evictions for information on free legal assistance and resources. The site includes a self-representation kit and mediation and lawyer referrals. Anyone who has received an eviction notice should act as soon as possible! For other resources, also visit www.makejusticehappen.org.
The Houston Bar Association’s (HBA) free LegalLine provides simple legal advice and helpful resources on the first and third Wednesday of each month from 5 to 8 p.m. To sign up for a time slot, go to www.hba.org/legalline or call 713-759-1133. You must register 24 hours in advance.
Consejos Legales – Legal Advice in Spanish
The Mexican American Bar Association of Houston and the Hispanic Bar Association of Houston, in association with the Houston Bar Association, offer free, anonymous virtual legal advice services to the Spanish-speaking community through Consejos Legales. Consejos Legales takes place the first Thursday of each month from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Licensed volunteer attorneys provide simple legal advice, answers to legal questions, and referrals to helpful resources. The next virtual Consejos Legales will be offered on November 5, December 3 and January 7. Callers may register online for a 20-minute appointment no later than a day in advance at: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/904084ba9ad23aafc1-consejos.
Consejos Legales es un servicio telefónico virtual anónimo y gratuito para la comunidad de habla hispana. Está patrocinado por la Asociación de Abogados Hispanos de Houston y la Asociación de Abogados México Americanos de Houston en colaboración con la Asociación de Abogados de Houston. Consejos Legales toma lugar el primer juves de cada mes de las 6:00 p.m. hasta las 8:00 p.m. Abogados voluntarios proporcionan consejos legales simples, respuestas a preguntas legales, y referencias a otros recursos útiles. Los próximos Consejos Legales están programados para el 5 de noviembre, el 3 de diciembre y el 7 de enero. Regístrese un mínimo de 24 hours antes de la fecha para recibir orientación legal gratuita de un abogado (consulta de 20 minutos) en https://www.signupgenius.com/go/904084ba9ad23aafc1-consejos.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE DURING COVID-19 – HELP FOR SURVIVORS
Are you experiencing violence because you are forced to stay with an abusive partner? If so, help is available. Call the Houston Area Women’s Center 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline for free and confidential assistance at 713-528-2121 or TTY-713-528-3625. For more information, go to www.nocovidabuse.org.
MEDICARE BENEFITS COUNSELING
Medicare beneficiaries reviewing their 2021 health and prescription drug plan options can get free help from benefits counselors with the Harris County Area Agency on Aging, a division of the Houston Health Department. Medicare open enrollment begins October 15 and runs through December 7. It is a period for beneficiaries to compare all their Medicare options and make changes to their health or prescription drug coverage for the following year.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person meetings are not feasible this year, but clients can receive guidance from benefits counselors via Zoom or Microsoft Teams and by phone. To make an appointment, call 832-393-4301 or 800-213-8471.
Clients need the following items on-hand during appointments: Medicare card (if changing current benefits); a list of current medications; award letter from Social Security or proof of income; and proof of current health insurance.
Benefits counselors do not recommend or endorse any specific insurance product, insurance company or plan. They provide information and advice so beneficiaries can make their own decisions.
People can enroll in Medicare if they are 65 or older, under 65 and have a disability or have either end-stage renal disease or ALS, also called Lou Gehrig’s disease. New coverage begins January 1, 2021 Medicare plans can be previewed at Medicare.gov.
2020 GENERAL & SPECIAL ELECTIONS – VOTE!
Early voting is in underway, with a record number of voters opting to vote early to avoid long lines due to COVID-19 concerns. If possible, cast your ballot during early voting. Below are important dates to keep in mind.
- Early Voting - October 13 – 30, 2020
- Last Day to Apply for Ballot by Mail - October 23, 2020 (received, not postmarked)
- General & Special Elections - November 3, 2020
For voter information, including polling locations and sample ballots, go to https://www.harrisvotes.org/.
MAKE IT A FUN, SAFE HALLOWEEN!
HALLOWEEN SAFETY ADVICE
- The Houston Health Department encourages people to forgo traditional trick-or-treating and Halloween gatherings this year in favor of safer alternatives.
- Going door-to-door and attending traditional Halloween events are high-risk activities for spreading COVID-19 during the pandemic. A safer alternative is one-way trick-or-treating where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go, while maintaining a safe social distance.
- Haunted houses and other indoor activities are also high risk for COVID-19 transmission. Safer options for Halloween fun include haunted forests and scavenger hunts, for easier social distancing, spooky movie nights or baking Halloween treats with household members, and virtual costume parties.
- A costume mask is not a substitute for a face cloth mask, unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and leaves no gaps around the face. People should not wear a costume mask over a protective cloth mask because it can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it harder to breathe. A safer alternative is using a Halloween-themed cloth mask.
- People with COVID-19 symptoms or who have been exposed to someone who tested positive should not answer the door to trick-or-treaters.