Re: “Here’s how you can help victims of Hurricane Harvey“:

Hurricane Harvey survivors are in need of assistance and, as is typical after disaster, many Mainers have begun efforts to contribute to the relief. I study emergency management, specifically nonprofits in recovery, and have suggestions for how to make sure your efforts actually help.

Send cash, not stuff.

Sending stuff isn’t just unhelpful, it can cause actual harm. Decades of disaster research have found that donations can become a disaster within a disaster. The amount of management that is needed to sort, store, clean and distribute donated items is shocking. The resources used to manage these donations can almost always be used to address other, more urgent, needs in the community.

It is a consistent problem after large disasters and has been well-reported in the media and studied by researchers. Think of it this way – you’re not the only one sending stuff. Everyone around the country has the same idea. This generosity adds up, fast. Entire towns in Texas are already beginning to turn away donations of goods.

If you’ve already collected stuff, you might consider holding a “Harvey Yard Sale” and donating the proceeds, or even donate the items to a local shelter or food pantry here in Maine that is in need.

Hundreds of groups are collecting money to assist Hurricane Harvey survivors. I recommend looking for organizations local to Texas. By virtue of their living there, they know the community best and will be working in the affected communities longer than the national disaster groups will be.

It’s important to remember that although there is a lot of need right now, this is going to be a decade-long recovery. Survivors don’t just need help now. They will need it many weeks, months and years from now. Cash is the best option.

Samantha Montano


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