We all can help Houston storm victims — here’s how – Orange County Register

In times of crisis, Americans must set aside geographic and political differences and unite to help their fellow human beings.

Hurricane Harvey, the first Category 4 hurricane to hit the United States in more than a decade, has devastated communities across southeast Texas. Rescue efforts are ongoing amidst continued storms, and hundreds of thousands of people remained without power Wednesday.

With an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 homes destroyed in the Houston area, and at least 22 confirmed dead, individuals and communities face many grueling challenges in the hours, days, weeks, months and years ahead. Neighborhoods have been ravaged, lives upended and lives lost.

There will be a time and place for debate and reflection about the preparedness of and response by federal, state and local authorities. Such discussions will be helpful in mitigating the harm of future storms.

But many people need help right now. As people are still being rescued, and the full financial and human toll remains unknown, ordinary Americans have an opportunity to do their part.

For those of us in Southern California, who might someday need help ourselves should we face especially damaging earthquakes or wildfires, the most efficient way of helping those affected by Hurricane Harvey is through financial support of established organizations that are at work on the scene.

It is important that people who wish to donate do their research, avoid scams and ensure that their donations are going to be used as effectively as possible. The best way to do this is to identify legitimate organizations and donate directly to them. Unfortunately, there are many who take advantage of others for their own gain, through dubious fundraisers and other means.

One resource to avoid such problems is Charity Navigator (charitynavigator.org), which vets nonprofits and hosts a page devoted to reputable charities in position to help victims. Charity Navigator recommends the following organizations:

• The Houston…

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