How Mutual Aid Increases Community Resiliency

Recent devastating weather events highlight the importance of community connection in keeping people safe when infrastructure fails.

1 minute read

December 12, 2022, 9:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Volunteers wearing masks moving pallets of water bottles during February 2021 storm in Austin, Texas

Volunteers in Austin, Texas distribute water bottles during the winter storm in February 2021. | Vic Hinterlang / Volunteers in Austin, Texas

Writing in Next City, Yvonne Marquez highlights the importance of mutual aid networks in keeping communities safe during emergencies like extreme weather events

Marquez provides the example of Susana Edith from Texas, where a 2021 winter storm caused debilitating damage to infrastructure across the state and killed hundreds of people. “Edith is the founder of Lucha Dallas, a community-based collective that coordinated with other mutual aid groups in North Texas to bring food, warm clothing, sleeping bags and tent warmers to their unhoused neighbors; they even raised cash donations to pay for hotel rooms for those who could not access shelters.” As Marquez points out,

The practice is nothing new. Communities of color and other marginalized groups have long relied on mutual assistance when government services fell short. But now, many frontline communities are taking up the practice as a way to become more resilient in the face of increasingly extreme weather.

“Mutual aid is predicated on the understanding that everyone in a community has something to contribute and may need help at some point.” Research shows that more connected communities tend to fare better during weather crises.

The rise of mutual aid networks also exposes a crisis of governance in many U.S. cities, where local agencies fail to provide sufficient assistance to their most vulnerable constituents.

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