The Chinese Community Center, at 9800 Town Park Drive in the Southwest Management District, has long been a lifeline providing cultural, educational programs and a wide range of social services to people in the southwest parts of Houston.
A United Way Agency, it provides a variety of services at no or nominal fees in health services, senior services, after school care, tax preparation, financial planning, immigration and housing assistance. The 42-year-old, multi-ethnic agency offers educational programs and summer camps as well.
But the CCC stepped up further in the pandemic era by providing relief to those who were hard hit by financial loss, illness and other woes.
The New York Times and the Washington Post cited Houston and Harris County as examples of effective and efficient rental assistance programs, which distributed millions of dollars to local residents who fell behind on rent during the pandemic.
Mei Li, culture and fund development director at the Center, explained that they were able to use federal and local funds, from government and charitable giving, to provide four rounds of cash relief from April 2020 to April 2021.
During the pandemic the CCC has assisted 370 families with a total of $500,000 from the Harris County Covid Relief Fund, another 161 families with $100,000 through that fund and the United Way, and another 167 families with $300,000 in federal CARES Act funds.
“We got the word out quickly in a press release, and we were listed as a resource on the Harris County website,” Li explained. “We did a lot of outreach in the large multi-family apartment complexes in our area of 77036. We quickly involved our case managers, counselors, and other staff to help qualify and distribute the cash awards as there was a lot of urgent need. Many were facing eviction.”
Aside from making the cash awards, case managers assessed applicants and navigated clients to other CCC departments where they could receive more support.
To help in other ways, the CCC gave out gift cards for groceries and other necessities.
“It was not just a matter of handing out funds, because we would refer those searching for jobs or needing help due to bad credit, or needing a bank account, or even needing resume preparation to our Financial Opportunity Center,” Li said. “We referred people to food distribution centers such as the local police station, and we screened others for their needs to give all kinds of referrals.”
The Southwest Management District partnered with many social service agencies to coordinate food distributions and continues to do so.
Li told of an elderly gentleman who had served in the U.S. military but wasn’t receiving many of the veterans benefits to which he was entitled — because he did not want to ask for help. He was almost homeless due to a pending eviction. The Center connected him with a veterans’ subsidized housing program and found him permanent affordable housing.
Most recently, as there have been additional rounds of federal funding for continued rental assistance, CCC has served as a navigator for those needing the help.
Applicants can visit CCC caseworkers who can assist in filling out their applications for needed funds and upload any documentation requests. Because the rental assistance programs are online programs requiring technology skills, the CCC has worked with people who need help completing online forms.
Appointments can be made by calling 713-271-6100 or going online to https://ccchouston.org
— by Arlene Nisson Lassin