November 13, 2020
SERVING NEIGHBORHOODS BULLETIN
DEPARTMENT OF NEIGHBORHOODS NEWS
OFFICE OF NEW AMERICANS GARNERS DISTINCTIONS FOR SERVICE TO IMMIGRANT COMMUNITIES
The Department of Neighborhoods’ Office of New Americans and Immigrant Communities (ONAIC) has received two distinctions in the areas of Government Leadership and Community from New American Economy (NAE). The recognition is based on the findings of the third annual NAE Cities index, a national assessment of local integration policies and socioeconomic outcomes across the 100 largest cities in the U.S.
ONAIC spearheads innovative initiatives to benefit the city’s diverse immigrant and refugee population through the delivery of services, stakeholder engagement, community partnerships, and the promotion of Houston as a welcoming city. The office is recognized as national model for strategic community outreach and is a recipient of the NAE and Welcoming America 2016 Gateways for Growth Challenge award.
ABOUT THE OFFICE OF NEW AMERICANS AND IMMIGRANT COMMUNITIES
A division of the Department of Neighborhoods, the Office of New Americans and Immigrant Communities (ONAIC) builds partnerships with community entities to serve as a clearinghouse for information about services and multilingual resources available to immigrants and refugees. The office facilitates communications between city officials and community leaders to address concerns and partners with local organizations to sponsor citizenship forums, multicultural celebrations, and community townhalls. ONAIC serves a large and fast-growing community. The Houston region is home to an estimated 1.6 million immigrants representing more than 120 countries of origin and over 140 foreign languages. For more information, visit www.houstontx.gov/na.
LEGAL ISSUES IN THE PANDEMIC – FREE ONLINE COMMUNITY CLASSES
The Department of Neighborhoods and community partners invite residents to sign up for “A Month of Service,” a monthly series of free online classes focusing on a wide range of legal topics explored in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The topics include estate planning, taxes, child custody and divorce, employment and evictions. 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.
- Homebuyer Education – Part 2
Nov. 14, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
- Property Tax Value Protest Hearings, Exemptions & Payment Options
Nov. 17, 1-3 p.m.
- Create Your Own Estate Plan in a Time of COVID-19
Nov. 19, 1-3 p.m.
Class listings are posted on the NRCDC website at the beginning of each month. To register, go to NRCDC’s calendar of events at www.nrcdc.org/site/getregistered and click on 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 www.facebook.com/nrcdc.houston.
NEIGHBORHOOD UPDATES - STAY INFORMED BY PHONE!
We invite Houstonians to subscribe to Neighborhood Updatesto stay informed about COVID-19 recovery resources and essential city services via phone voice or text messages in English of 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.
HOUSTONIANS ENCOURAGED TO LIMIT HOLIDAY GATHERINGS TO HOUSEHOLD MEMBERS DURING THE PANDEMIC
Mayor Sylvester Turner encourages everyone to limit in-person holiday gatherings to household members to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent another surge this winter. People who attend holiday gatherings with others who are not members of their households should consider avoiding non-household members for 14-days before and after the event.
“I encourage everyone to make a few more sacrifices to keep our families and friends safe from the spread of COVID-19,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “This virus thrives on gatherings and will take advantage of holiday festivities to sicken our loved ones and further spread in our community. Although the holidays will look and feel different this year, making smart choices could save the lives of the people you love.”
Make smart choices!
The Houston Health Department urges the public to continue to social distance, mask up, wash hands and get tested. The department offers the following holiday season health safety advice.
- Consider video calls to interact with family and friends to eliminate the risk associated with in-person gatherings.
- Opt for outdoor gatherings, which are safer than indoor events, and continue to wear a mask and social distance when interacting with people who are not members of your household.
- If you must gather, your group should plan ahead and commit to restricting contact with anyone outside your group for 14 days before and after the gathering.
- Shoppers should avoid crowded stores and consider online shopping, curbside pick-up, and home delivery options.
- Plan your shopping for times when stores are less crowded and always wear a mask, social distance and use hand sanitizer.
People who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or were exposed to someone who tested positive must not spend any time with others nor leave their homes unless it is for the purpose of getting medical care. COVID-19 symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches, new loss of taste or smell and diarrhea.
For COVID-19 updates, testing sites and recovery resources, visit www.houstonemergency.org/covid19.
FIGHT COVID-19 - BETTER. TOGETHER.
PANDEMIC RECOVERY RESOURCES
RENTAL ASSISTANCE AVAILABLE TO ELIGIBLE CHILD CARE CENTERS
City Council has approved a $3 million relief fund to help local child care centers remain open to serve families during the pandemic. Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Health Equity Response (H.E.R.) Task Force will partner with Collaborative for Children for the administration of the program. The initiative is supported by federal coronavirus relief funds received by the city under the CARES Act.
The Collaborative will use the $3 million relief fund to administer child care rental assistance stipends to its current Center of Excellence programs and additional programs identified in targeted vulnerable communities. Up to 100 local childcare centers are expected to receive assistance.
The funding will support child care facilities' ability to continue to provide children with quality daycare so their caregivers, many of whom are essential workers, can continue to do their work with peace of mind that their children are in a safe environment.
To qualify for rental assistance, a childcare center must be in identified vulnerable communities, in a childcare desert, or in low-income/underserved communities. They must serve children from birth to 5 years and be directly impacted by COVID-19 that has resulted in enrollment declines or closure. They must also be a Workforce Solutions vendor, which means they serve families that receive child care subsidies.
If a childcare center qualifies, it will be eligible to receive reimbursement for past rental payments dating from May 2020, monthly stipends to cover the remaining rental expenses through December 30, 2020, and access to business administration training modules.
For more information, call the Collaborative at 713-600-1100.
SAFE HARBOR COURT ASSISTS CITIZENS UNABLE TO PAY FINES DUE TO HARDSHIPS DURING THE PANDEMIC
Court helps people explore options to avoid delinquent status
The Houston Municipal Courts Department’s Safe Harbor Court assists citizens facing financial hardships and medical issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After citizens produce evidence of inability to pay fines and fees, the Court will assist with satisfying their judgments to remove or prevent their cases from going into a delinquent status or a capias pro fine warrant status.
Safe Harbor Court judges will meet with citizens in their communities to discuss their inability to pay and options for the resolution of their cases. The process will help citizens understand that the court is there to assist them and allay fears of arrest. Members of the public will be required to wear face masks/facial coverings and have their temperature taken prior to entering the courthouse in compliance with COVID-19 health safety protocols.
For more information, call 3-1-1 or visit www.houstontx.gov/courts.
COVID-19 RELIEF PROGRAM BENEFITS HOUSTON MUSICIANS & MUSIC VENUES
Application Deadline - November 25, 2020
Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston City Council recently announced the Musicians and Music Venues Economic Relief Program, which will benefit eligible musicians and music venues that have been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The program’s $3 million funding comes from the city's allocated CARES Act 2020 funds.
The program will provide relief funding of up to $5,000 for musicians and up to $50,000 or $100,000 for music venues, depending on budget size.
Applications are being accepted online at www.houstoncaresaboutmusic.org. The application deadline Wednesday, November 25, 2020, 5 p.m.
The Mayor’s Office of Cultural Arts has tapped Mid-America Arts Alliance (MAAA), a non-profit 501(c)(3) regional arts organization, to administer the program. MAAA is hosting informational sessions via Zoom and offering 15-minute consultation appointments with prospective applicants.
For eligibility requirements, click on link: https://www.houstontx.gov/mayor/press/2020/relief-program-musicians.html.
HELP FOR TENANTS FACING EVICTION
COVID-19 Eviction Moratorium
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has declared a nationwide temporary eviction moratorium for certain tenants through December 31, 2020, and the Texas Supreme Court issued an order in its support. If you qualify, you may be able to avoid eviction. For details, go to www.houstontx.gov/housing/landing/cdc-eviction.
For questions about the CDC declaration, call South Texas College of Law at 346-250-1069. If you have received an eviction notice, call the South Texas College of Law at above phone number or Lone Star Legal Aid at 800-733-8394.
COVID-19 Rental Assistance Program
The COVID-19 Rental Assistance Program is still accepting applications from low-income tenants who are behind on rent payments due to COVID-19. To apply, you must be a tenant of a landlord enrolled in the program. Landlord enrollment is also being accepted. The program is being administered by BakerRipley. For details, visit www.bakerripleyrenthelp.org.
Stop TX Eviction Online Resources
Stop TX Eviction is a new online portal that provides free information and guidance to help tenants understand their legal rights and remedies available to keep them housed.
The portal helps renters:
- Get legal information about the eviction process and tenant rights
- Get access to important documents to give to the landlord or the court
- Apply for legal services available to qualifying tenants
- Find out about rental assistance and other resources and how to apply
- Chat with a lawyer about questions regarding eviction
To access the portal in English or Spanish, click on link: https://stoptxeviction.org.
Stop TX Eviction is a collaboration between Lone Star Legal Aid, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Texas Legal Services Center, and Legal Aid of Northwest Texas. Funded by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, the program is expected to continue through December 18, 2020.
Houston Bar Association Help with Evictions
Go to www.hba.org/evictions for information on free legal assistance and resources. The site includes a self-representation kit and referrals to mediation resources and lawyers. Anyone who has received an eviction notice should act as soon as possible. For other resources, also visit www.makejusticehappen.org.
FREE LEGAL SERVICES
The Houston Bar Association’s free LegalLine provides basic legal advice and helpful resources on the first and third Wednesday of every 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 – Virtual 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 legal advice 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 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 jueves de cada mes de las 6 p.m. hasta las 8 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 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.
MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELING
The Houston Health Department is offering health education and support services to help people adjust mentally and emotionally to stress and challenges brought on by the pandemic. To reach a trained health professional for appropriate intervention, call the helpline at 713-999-9442, accessible daily from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. through December 24, 2020.
The Houston Food Bank provides food assistance through its many affiliated 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 city’s Financial Empowerment Centers offer free one-to-one financial counseling to Houston residents. The services are provided by the Mayor’s Office of Complete Communities. Get guidance on to how to manage your money, pay down debt, increase savings, establish credit and more. To make an appointment, go to www.houstontx.gov/fec.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE DURING COVID-19 – HELP FOR SURVIVORS
Are you experiencing violence? There is help available. Call the Houston Area Women’s Center 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline for free confidential assistance at 713-528-2121 or TTY-713-528-3625. For more information, click on link: https://www.domesticshelters.org/help/tx/houston/77019/houston-area-women-s-center.
MEDICARE BENEFITS COUNSELING
Medicare beneficiaries reviewing their 2021 health and prescription plan options can get free help from benefits counselors with the Harris County Area Agency on Aging. Medicare open enrollment runs through December 7. Due to COVID-19, appointments are conducted via Zoom and Microsoft Teams or by phone. To make an appointment, call 832-393-4301.
COVID-19 TESTING – Free, Fast, Safe
COVID-19 Official News & Updates
For official City of Houston COVID-19 updates, news, testing sites and recovery resources, including multilingual information, go to HoustonEmergency.org/covid19.
COVID-19 Testing - Citywide
COVID-19 testing is available to everyone at testing sites operated by the Houston Health Department and agency partners. The service is free and does not require proof of residency, insurance or citizenship.
- For a weekly schedule of testing sites, click on link: COVID-19 Testing Sites Weekly.
- For assistance by phone, call the COVID-19 Call Center at 832-393-4220, Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
COVID-19 Testing for Families & Groups
- In-home for Families
- At Community Sites for Groups
The Harris County Area Agency on Aging offers free in-home COVID-19 testing for families. The agency also offers testing for groups at a neighborhood location such as a church hall, apartment complex or community center. The service is available to residents of Harris County. To schedule in-home family testing or group testing, call 832-393-4301.
Happy Thanksgiving Day!