by Caroline Fredrickson, president of the American Constitution Society
Tropical storm Harvey has stunned us with devastating images of historic flooding. But for those who are living through the storm and its aftermath, life has forever changed. As one ACS staff member in Houston said, the only thing on her mind was going to a shelter and helping others.
The fact is all ACS members can help the survivors of Hurricane Harvey. The Texas Supreme Court recently issued an emergency order that even attorneys from outside Texas can provide pro bono legal services to state residents. This created a valuable opportunity for ACS’s members to directly assist those who are most in need. In fact, we have been spreading the word and mobilizing our volunteers to get involved.
Unfortunately, even after hurricane Harvey dissipates, the disaster will continue to unfold for weeks, months and even years as people rebuild their homes and lives. Although lawyers are probably the last people we think of in the midst of a devastating natural disaster, they play a critical role in helping survivors navigate the legal system on a range of issues including housing, benefits and insurance.
More than 9,000 people are staying in the city’s main shelter, the George R. Brown Convention Center, according to the Red Cross. News clips show that the place has become a common family room with many people lying on piles of cardboard and blankets. These and many other storm images are disheartening, and many of us want to offer our support.ACS is grateful that we can play a part in helping survivors recover from the chaos. I urge all of our members around the country to get involved in this worthy effort and others in or outside Texas to lend a hand.