Tzu Chi USA Volunteers in Houston Distribute Blankets Amid Dangerous Winter Weather

Southern  |  February 20, 2024
After opening their big cars, Tzu Chi volunteers began to distribute cold winter supplies to street residents.
Opening the Tzu Chi van, volunteers began distributing winter essentials to the unhoused. Photo / Mingchan Liang

Written by Eunice Pai
Edited by Yingying Lee, Anna Sipek
Translated by Ariel Chan

Starting January 8th, the temperatures in Houston, TX, have drastically dropped, with lows reaching 18ºF (approximately -8°C) by the 15th. While households were busy with winter protection measures, Tzu Chi USA Southern Region CEO Sean Lo couldn’t bear to see people without housing in Houston suffering from the severe weather. Urgently recruiting Tzu Chi USA volunteers, he distributed eco-friendly blankets to the unhoused a day before the cold wave hit Houston. 

Due to the rare occurrence of severe cold weather in Houston, signing contracts with churches or shelters months in advance was impossible. The only option was to select the parking lot opposite a church providing lunch to the unhoused as the distribution site and to carry out the distribution before the unhoused gathered to receive lunch.

111 Blankets Distributed in Ten Minutes

On January 13th at 9:30 am, eight volunteers arrived at Jing Si Hall to prepare blankets. They first packed the eco-friendly blankets and added Tzu Chi promotional materials, pre-purchased socks, and heating pads. Everyone worked together harmoniously and offered prayers for peace and smooth distribution before boarding the van for the distribution site.

When the Tzu Chi volunteers arrived, dozens of people lined up for distribution. Volunteers handed out eco-friendly blankets and items, wishing everyone a safe passage through the cold. The distribution was completed within ten minutes, distributing 111 blankets, socks, and heating pads.

Wishing Them Peace and Good Fortune

Upon seeing the Tzu Chi van and understanding that a Buddhist organization was distributing the items, one unhoused individual walked over and showed the volunteers the Buddha image hanging around his neck. A devout Buddhist who recently moved from New York to Houston two or three weeks prior, he found comfort in meeting more Buddhists in a new city. Watching a smile appear on his face, the volunteers sincerely blessed him with peace and good fortune.

Although we cannot help all the unhoused in Houston, we strive to assist the hidden corners of society despite the short preparation time.

First-time volunteers in the distribution, Zefang Ceng and Shinong Zhang, felt comforted after distributing the blankets. They are grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the unhoused before the cold wave hits, bringing some warmth to those sleeping on the streets. Volunteer Naizhen Zheng, who had participated in Tzu Chi’s material distributions in California, deeply felt that the unhoused in downtown Houston were polite and actively queued up to receive items.

With its mild winters, distributing blankets in Houston is rarely necessary, but it is an excellent opportunity to distribute eco-friendly blankets during this rare, severe cold winter. The socks and heating pads also helped the unhoused stay warm in the face of the dangerously chilling weather. CEO Sean Lo was thankful for the volunteers’ selfless contributions and prayed for the unhoused to pass through the severe cold safely and peacefully.

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