When Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans, Houston stepped up in a variety of ways. The city housed 250,000 evacuees — many of whom made Houston their new home.
As Houston begins to recover from Hurricane Harvey, residents of the Crescent City want to show Houstonians the same kindness they received more than 10 years ago. One of those leading the charge is the Brennan family, which 50 years ago opened Brennan's of Houston, one of Houston’s most iconic restaurants.
Commander’s Palace co-proprietor Ti Martin and the Louisiana Restaurant Association have teamed up with the Greater New Orleans Foundation to activate the Hurricane Harvey Hospitality Employee Relief Fund. Modeled after a similar fund that Brennan’s of Houston proprietor Alex Brennan-Martin established after Hurricane Katrina, the charity will issue grants to hospitality industry workers who suffered losses because of Hurricane Harvey.
“I really have said so many times when I see people from Houston who bring up Katrina, I really mean this from my heart, I do not think one city has been better to another city,” Martin tells CultureMap. “I feel that in my heart. I was there. I was here. I saw it. This whole community is so anxious to give. You’ve seen the 'Hou Dat' shirt. Everyone feels it.”
When Martin saw the suffering caused by Hurricane Harvey, she called her brother and asked him about creating a new fund that would follow the same model as his did after Katrina.
“It was pretty easy, frankly, to know what to do,” Martin says. “I know quick cash assistance is the idea . . . The idea is to give $2,000 to $5,000 one time to help with immediate needs, to help as many people as possible.”
Martin recognizes that the needs are varied. Some workers lost their cars trying to drive through the floodwaters, and others may need to replace clothing and furniture. While the grants won’t replace everything any individual person or family lost, they are a start.
“The goal is to help people get back on their feet and access more help either through FEMA or (other entities),” Brennan-Martin says. “It’s a way to help folks in our industry, people who are so close to people in the industry, help staff. That’s the desire of many who have reached out to us. That’s what this is about.”
Exact requirements are still being finalized, but those who wish to apply will be able to fill out a form on the Greater New Orleans Foundation website. Applicants will need a pay stub or other documentation to prove they work in the hospitality industry. Martin hopes to begin distributing money as soon as next month.
By working with restaurants around the country to hold dinners and other events, the Katrina fund raised over $1 million. Martin denies feeling any sort of sibling rivalry to top that for Harvey victims, but she acknowledges that would be a pretty good goal.
“I just want to help as much as he helped us,” she says. “But because of the need sure we’d like to beat that.”