The early 1900s were a dismal time in Houston, with the devastating impacts of the great Galveston hurricane that killed approximately 9,000 people and a serious smallpox epidemic ravaging its way through the city.
In response to this state of emergency, 12 prominent Houstonians founded the non-profit organization Family Services of Greater Houston, also known as Family Houston. These founders put on different entertainment events, like fire dancing and pony shows, to raise money for those in need. The funds grew to allow the purchase of an office and staff members.
Family Houston has since consistently remolded itself in each generation of people to fit the needs of that time, while also maintaining a focus on mental health and counseling services.
Family Houston has established itself as both a proactive organization in terms of mental health and a reactive organization in terms of disaster relief and culture shifts.
For example, in World War II the needs of Houston changed as mothers were now pressed to leave their homes and work to support the war effort. In response, Family Houston added a day care center and hired visiting homemakers.
In the 1960s Family Houston readjusted again in response to an extreme growth in teen rebellion, by including more adolescent counseling, group counseling, and substance abuse counseling.
Following a spike in the U.S. Latin-American population during the 1970s, Family Houston established a Spanish-only center and began employing bi-lingual staff across the city.
Most recently Family Houston has responded to the needs of veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, by creating an employment services program along with additional attention to PTSD counseling.
Family Houston has truly proven themselves to be listeners and leaders of Houston.
“We try to be as much a part of the community as possible and so we change based on the needs of the community,” said Mercy Harper, Manager of Communications at Family Houston. “We’ve been in the community long enough and because we are connected to United Way a lot of people feel comfortable referring people to us.”
Today, Family Houston serves about 80,000 people a year with various free services including: counseling, case management, employment, financial stability, substance abuse prevention, parenting and life skill classes, and veteran services.
“As the communications manager, I am the one who gets to share all of our positive stories with the public,” said Harper, “and so I’ve met a lot of incredible clients who come in and tell me about what a positive impact we have had on them and it feels good to know I work for an organization that allows for stories like these to exist.”
For those interested in helping Family Houston, consider joining their Young Professionals group. Get more information at www.familyhouston.org/young-professionals-for-family-houston.
“We have a luncheon coming up May 10th called Pillars of Strength. It’s going to be pretty exciting,” said Harper. “We’re going to have Elizabeth McIngvale as a guest speaker, and she will be talking about her own experience with OCD and how she became a mental health advocate. We encourage the community to come and join us.”
For more information on Family Houston please visit familyhouston.org.