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Mutual aid networks provide direct-to-neighbor support during weather crisis – San Antonio Report

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While much of San Antonio was frozen amid the harsh cold snap, small groups of volunteers have moved about the city, delivering supplies and offering warm places to stay to those without the necessities: food, water, shelter, and heat to stave off the biting winter freeze.

The supplies, and the money to buy more, didn’t come from a federal or state-backed emergency fund or assistance program. Instead, they’re forms of mutual aid: community-sourced donations of items, money, resources, and time. A key component of the mutual aid strategy is organizing and acting in solidarity with community members to address an issue or lack of resources – especially in response to governmental neglect.

“We know existing infrastructure has failed community and continues to fail community, so we have no one else to count on but each other,” said Teri Castillo, who volunteers with the Historic Westside Residents Association and San Antonio DSA. Castillo, who’s from the West Side, has been purchasing and dropping off supplies to neighbors in her area. 

Tortillas, bread, and milk are some of the main requests of affected community members, she said, as well as Gatorade and Pedialyte for those trying to stay hydrated while dealing with COVID-19.

Teri Castillo of the Historic Westside Resident Association addresses the Housing Commission and fellow housing advocates during a meeting regarding the San Antonio Housing Authority's eviction process.
Teri Castillo of the Historic Westside Residents Association addresses the Housing Commission and fellow housing advocates in 2019. Credit: Iris Dimmick / San Antonio Report

Every item is bought using donated money and is delivered by a volunteer at no cost to the recipient. Local organizations and grassroots efforts such as Yanawana Herbolarios, Black Futures Collective, Plants for Mutual Aid, Sueños sin Fronteras, Trinity Mutual Aid, and Para Mi Gente have collected monetary donations via their cause’s Venmo, Paypal, or GoFundMe accounts to buy hotel rooms for freezing families, cold-weather gear for unsheltered individuals, groceries, hot meals, and a variety of other types of mutual aid.


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