Veterans Impacted by Hurricane Harvey Receive Help in Weathering a New Storm: COVID-19

A two-year, $6 million partnership between the Bob Woodruff Foundation and the Qatar Harvey Fund provides support for 21 high-impact programs serving more than 10,000 veterans living in 41 storm-impacted counties

Three years after Hurricane Harvey made landfall, many of the roughly 400,000 veterans across Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast are still impacted by the storm’s devastating effects. In response to the disaster, the Qatar Harvey Fund (QHF) partnered with the Bob Woodruff Foundation (BWF) to deploy a $6 million grant helping veterans rebuild, recover, and thrive after the hurricane. Those veterans now face new and urgent challenges of illness, unemployment, uncertainty, and isolation due to COVID-19. In the final two rounds of grants from this two-year partnership, the Bob Woodruff Foundation allocated $1.8M in funding to programs that support veterans recovering from the impacts of Hurricane Harvey and the pandemic.

His Excellency Sheikh Meshal bin Hamad Al-Thani, Qatar’s Ambassador to the U.S. and Chair of the Qatar Harvey Fund, said: “We are very proud of our partnership with the Bob Woodruff Foundation because they are providing critically-needed support to veterans in southeast Texas who have been hard hit by COVID-19, with many of these veterans still recovering from Hurricane Harvey. Today’s announcement of the positive outcomes being generated by the Bob Woodruff Foundation and its local Texas partners is truly gratifying. Three years after the storm, the Qatar Harvey Fund remains committed to supporting the long-term recovery of southeast Texas, a region with strong bonds of friendship with the people of Qatar. Through the innovative work of the Bob Woodruff Foundation and its partners, the needs resulting from the pandemic are being met by collaboration and flexible service delivery to veterans.”

As coronavirus cases continue to surge in Harvey-impacted counties, veterans still recovering from the storm must cope with new and exacerbated challenges to their mental and physical health, financial wellbeing, and ability to meet their basic needs.

“The support and services provided by the Bob Woodruff Foundation-Qatar Harvey Fund partnership are now more important than ever, as Texas Gulf Coast veterans and their families face a long road to recovery from two major crises,” said Anne Marie Dougherty, CEO of the Bob Woodruff Foundation. “The most significant takeaway here is that our veterans don’t have to face these challenges alone. We’re funding incredible programs that are ready and willing to help right now, and long after the storm has passed.”

Emergency Relief

The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed the recovery for thousands of veterans living in the communities impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Thanks to the Qatar Harvey Fund, the Bob Woodruff Foundation has been able to provide essential support to an already strained social services sector. The BWF-QHF partnership is addressing needs related to housing, legal assistance, financial aid, food security, and mental health, providing critical support for veterans and their families through COVID-19 and beyond.

When Bryan, a U.S. Army veteran, learned that his wife was pregnant, his excitement was followed by concern. After a year of hardships, including his brother’s COVID-19 diagnosis and subsequent hospitalization, Bryan’s family was experiencing a period of extreme stress. Thanks to BWF-QHF funding, Easter Seals Houston provided financial assistance to help Bryan pay his mortgage and feel secure. “I know it’s cliché, but just saying ‘thank you’ is not even close to being adequate…For a long time, I have only seen the present and my circumstances for what they are,” said Bryan. “I am still reminded of the stress every day, but Easter Seals and donors like you have given me and my family a glimpse to a bright future.” BWF-QHF funding is helping Easter Seals Houston provide virtual peer support opportunities and direct emergency financial relief to 150 veteran households whose recovery from Hurricane Harvey has slowed due to COVID-19.

Collaborating for Greater Impact

Veterans know better than most that nobody can accomplish the mission alone. By bringing together local and national best-in-class providers, the Bob Woodruff Foundation helped grow a strong network of resources and services for veterans in the Texas Gulf Coast. Working together, these programs can better assist veterans as they tackle the complex issues that come with transitioning out of the military, experiencing a major natural disaster, and weathering a global pandemic.

BWF-QHF grantee Combined Arms is built on a foundation of collaboration. In 2019, they launched the Combined Arms Community Leader program with support from BWF-QHF funding. The program grew rapidly as veterans across the Houston area raised their hands to be of service to their communities. With continued BWF-QHF support, Combined Arms is expanding the program to ultimately connect 10,000 veteran households to a network of services standing by to assist them in their recovery after Harvey, and during this new period of hardship.

Carlis, a Combined Arms Community Leader and Marine veteran, was recently laid off from his position in the energy sector and has positively refocused his energy to help fellow veterans in need. He has coordinated efforts, in collaboration with programs including BWF-QHF grantees The Mission Continues and the Houston Food Bank, to lead food drives and other recurring events to support veteran families facing food insecurity during the pandemic. Carlis has found a new passion and community by continuing to serve through Combined Arms – helping veterans and their families using the power of collaboration. 

Investing for the Long-Term

As the three-year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey approaches, many veterans still require additional resources and services to help them maintain the progress they have made in the wake of the storm. To address both the urgent and long-term needs of this community, the Bob Woodruff Foundation-Qatar Harvey Fund partnership is investing in programming that addresses immediate mental health challenges while strengthening the infrastructure of mental health space in Texas.

Through several BWF-QHF grants, the STRONG STAR Training Initiative’s team of experts at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (also known as UT Health San Antonio) has trained 98 veteran-serving mental health providers in evidence-based treatment for PTSD. These providers return to their communities equipped with the clinical skills to help their veteran clients recover and take back their lives. The veterans they treat gain tools to help them live with PTSD, more effectively process future challenges, and find success.

In addition to provider training, BWF-QHF also supports a STRONG STAR intensive outpatient treatment program for veterans impacted by Hurricane Harvey. “Although face-to-face treatment remains our preferred method, we are now able to deliver part or all of this treatment through telehealth,” said Dr. Alan Peterson, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences in the Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio and director of the STRONG STAR Consortium. “As a result, funding from Bob Woodruff Foundation Qatar Harvey Fund has not only allowed us to provide a one-of-a kind, intensive outpatient PTSD treatment for Texas Gulf Coast region veterans, it has allowed us to adapt the intervention to overcome many of the challenges we have faced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

U.S. Army veteran Britton shared her gratitude for the PTSD program: “This program saved my marriage and quite possibly life. The Bob Woodruff Foundation and the STRONG STAR staff changed my life. Because of their support I am able to live a more productive life and my mental health has never been better. I am grateful. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

For a full and detailed list of the Bob Woodruff Foundation’s BWF-QHF grantees, visit here.

 

About the Bob Woodruff Foundation:

The Bob Woodruff Foundation (BWF) was founded in 2006 after reporter Bob Woodruff was hit by a roadside bomb while covering the war in Iraq. Since then, the Bob Woodruff Foundation has led an enduring call to action for people to stand up for heroes and meet the emerging and long-term needs of today’s veterans. To date, BWF has invested over $70 million to Find, Fund and Shape™ programs that have empowered impacted veterans, service members, and their family members, across the nation. For more information, please visit bobwoodrufffoundation.org or follow us on Twitter at @Stand4Heroes.

 

About the Qatar Harvey Fund and the State of Qatar

Following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey in August 2017, the State of Qatar announced a gift of $30 million for the long-term recovery of the storm’s victims in Texas. The Qatar Harvey Fund was created to administer the gift, which included $6 million to the Bob Woodruff Foundation.

 

Qatar is an independent state in the southern Arabian Gulf. It has a population of approximately 2.7 million people, the majority of whom live in and around Doha, the capital. Diplomatic relations with the United States were established in 1972; in the same year, Qatar’s first diplomatic mission in Washington, D.C. opened. The relationship between the two countries has always been friendly, highly productive, and reciprocal. Qatar is home to many Americans, and the United States is both Qatar’s largest foreign investor and its largest source of imports. Qatar-U.S. relations are growing continuously in multiple areas: economic, political, military, educational, and cultural. Qatar is a close ally of the United States and a strong advocate of building a peaceful, prosperous, and stable Middle East. Qatar has provided significant humanitarian and development assistance to countries around the world, including the United States. In 2005, the State of Qatar announced the Qatar Katrina Fund, which provided $100M in grants for housing, healthcare and education projects directly to local partners across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to support long-term recovery in the region after Hurricane Katrina.